Published on Aug 4, 2014
A Panel Discussion for the Public and Healthcare Professionals
Death: Why the Brain Matters
Alex Capron, LL.B Professor, Law and Medicine
James Hynds, Ph.D. Senior Clinical Ethicist, UCLA Health System
Paul Vespa, M.D. Director, Neuro ICU, RRUCLA Medical Center
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Ronald Reagan Medical Center
Our economy is broken. There’s one economy for the wealthy, and another for the rest of us. This division has been worsened by the behavior of corporate executives who manage their corporations for short-term personal gain rather than for long-term fiscal soundness.
This isn’t a complete review of Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence (2014), but a summary of the thoughts that came to my mind while and after reading the book. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014) opens with a cautionary fable: a group of sparrows consider finding an owl to assist and protect them. Only the more cautious sparrows see the danger – that the owl may eat them all if they don’t find out how to tame an owl first – and Bostrom dedicates the book to them (and of course to the cautious humans afraid that superintelligent life forms may destroy humanity if we don’t find out how to control them first).
James Randi is Coming to Australia! Yes you heard correctly! http://thinkinc.org.au/jamesrandi/
Wednesday 3 December – Perth | Octagon Theatre
Thursday 4 December – Brisbane | BCEC
Friday 5 December – Melbourne | MCEC
Sunday 7 December – Sydney | Enmore Theatre
Think Inc. is proud to announce that this December, The Amazing Randi will be bringing his unique superheroic brand of sceptic justice to Australia!
Magician James Randi (known as ‘The Amazing Randi’) has spent the bulk of his career debunking the claims of self-proclaimed psychics and paranormalists. Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but he is perhaps best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and de-mystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
The event is run as the first and exclusive public screening of Randi’s new biographical documentary, ‘An Honest Liar’ followed by a fireside chat and Q&A session to hear the tales of this (de)mystifying 86-year-old.
Those attending the event will have a unique opportunity to learn more about the wonderful world of magic and skepticism in an entertaining light with this mastermind. With a cult following, An evening with James Randi will be another sold-out Think Inc. event.
The Amazing Randi has pursued ‘psychic’ spoon benders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water ‘with a memory,’ and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural. Randi is also starring in his own biographical documentary ‘An Honest Liar,’ which will be screened alongside his fireside chat across four Australian cities.
He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship (also known as the ‘MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant’) in 1986. He’s the author of numerous books, including Flim-Flam!: Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions (1982), The Truth About Uri Geller (1982), The Faith Healers (1987), and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural (1995).
In 1996, the James Randi Education Foundation was established to further Randi’s work. Randi’s long-standing challenge to psychics now stands as a $1,000,000 prize administered by the Foundation. It remains unclaimed.
For all media inquires please contact suzi[at]novacane.com.au
Is it possible for us to significantly boost our intelligence within a lifetime? Studies show that changes in our lifestyle like exercise and nutrition can help increase brain power - but these improvements are modest at best. Perhaps the future of intelligence will come in the form of a brain implant? We’ve already seen some amazing research to get computers and brains to communicate more easily - and the future implications are limitless!
If you could boost any part of your mental faculties, what would it be and why? Let us know in the comments below!
Last week, I published a guest post at Wired UK called It's Time to Consider Restricting Human Breeding. It was an opinion article that generated many commentary stories, over a thousand comments across the web, and even a few death threats for me.
“This year alone, there have been 17,000 cases of meningitis in Nigeria, with nearly 1,000 deaths”. It’s a statement that jumped out at me watching a video from this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival by my former University of Michigan Public Health student Utibe Effiong.
The paper tries to fuse traditional concerns about the problem of evil with recent work in population ethics. The result is an interesting, and somewhat novel, atheological argument. As is the case with every journal club, I will try to kick start the discussion by providing an overview of the paper’s main arguments, along with some questions you might like to ponder about its effectiveness.
If one hates a woman and wants to get rid of her; if a person dislikes particularly an elderly female member of the family and wants to destroy her socially, one of the most effective ways of getting rid of her is accusing her of witchcraft. This is the case in Northern Ghana as in other parts of the African continent.
Professor Christopher Peacocke, Visiting Professor at the New College of Humanities, delivers a lecture about what we hear in music and why it matters to us. Published on May 6, 2014
Professor Peacocke was Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in the University of Oxford, and held a Leverhulme Personal Research Professorship. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at Berkeley, NYU and UCLA, and has been a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford. He was President of the Mind Association in 1986-7. In 2001, he delivered the Whitehead lectures at Harvard University, and in 2003 he gave the Immanuel Kant Lectures at Stanford. His books include Sense and Content (Oxford, 1983), Thoughts: An Essay on Content (Blackwell, 1986) and A Study of Concepts (MIT, 1992).
His book, Being Known (Oxford, 1999) is on the integration of metaphysics and epistemology. The Realm of Reason (Oxford, 2003) develops a theory of the relations between entitlement, truth, and the a priori, and proposes a generalized rationalism. His book Truly Understood (Oxford, 2008) proposes a substantive theory of understanding, and applies it to some central issues in the philosophy of mind, including the nature of first-person thought, the general conception of many minds, the ability to think about one’s own and others’ conscious states, and the ability to think about intentional contents. His most recent book is The Mirror of the World: Subjects, Consciousness, and Self-Consciousness (Oxford, 2014), which develops a new metaphysics of subjects, integrates it with a theory of first person representation, and applies the resulting theory to some classical and recent problems involving first person thought.
In 2010 he gave the Evans Memorial Lecture at Oxford, and the ‘Context and Content’ Lectures at the Jean Nicod Institute, in the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. He delivered the Kohut Lectures at the University of Chicago in 2011, under the title ‘Subjects, Consciousness and Self-Consciousness’. In Columbia, he has taught for the Core Curriculum, in Music Humanities. In 2011-13, he served as Chair of the Promotions and Tenure Committee in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He is currently Chair of the Philosophy Department.
Professor Simon Blackburn talks about Science and Human Nature. What does science tell us about the human mind? What can we learn about human nature in the context of philosophy?
Simon Blackburn (born 12 July 1944) is a British academic philosopher known for his work in quasi-realism and his efforts to popularise philosophy. He retired as professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 2011, but remains a distinguished research professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, teaching every fall semester. He is also a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a member of the professoriate of New College of the Humanities. He was previously a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford and has also taught full-time at the University of North Carolina as an Edna J. Koury Professor. He is a former president of the Aristotelian Society, having served the 2009-2010 term.
In philosophy, he is best known as the proponent of quasi-realism in meta-ethics and as a defender of neo-Humean views on a variety of topics. He is a former editor of the journal Mind. He makes occasional appearances in the British media, such as on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. Blackburn was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.
Professor Peter Singer lectures; Animals and Ethics: Published on Jul 24, 2014
Peter Albert David Singer, AC (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher. He is currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and a Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He specialises in applied ethics and approaches ethical issues from a secular, preference utilitarian perspective. He is known in particular for his book, Animal Liberation (1975), a canonical text in animal rights/liberation theory.
On two occasions Singer served as chair of the philosophy department at Monash University, where he founded its Centre for Human Bioethics. In 1996 he stood unsuccessfully as a Greens candidate for the Australian Senate. In 2004 he was recognised as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, and in June 2012 was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to philosophy and bioethics. He serves on the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health, the NGO formed to develop the Health Impact Fund proposal. He was voted one of Australia’s ten most influential public intellectuals in 2006. Singer currently serves on the advisory board of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP).
I'm back from the first Climate Engineering Conference, held in Berlin. Quite a good trip, but in many ways the highlight was the talk I gave at the Berlin Natural History Museum. The gathering took place in the dinosaur room, which holds (among other treasures) the "Berlin Specimen" Archaeopteryx fossil, among the most famous and most important fossils ever discovered.
If you push long and hard enough for something that is logical and needed, a time may come when it finally happens! At which point – pretty often – you may have no idea whether your efforts made a difference. Perhaps other, influential people saw the same facts and drew similar, logical conclusions!
“This is an economic revolution,” a new online video says about automation. The premise of “Humans Need Not Apply” is that human work will soon be all but obsolete. “You may think we’ve been here before, but we haven’t,” says CGP Grey, the video’s creator. “This time is different.” The video has gone viral, with nearly two million YouTube views in one week. But is it true?
I’ve recently been looking into the ethics of vegetarianism, partly because I’m not one myself and I’m interesting in questioning my position, and partly because it is an interesting philosophical issue in its own right. Earlier this summer I looked at Jeff McMahan’s critique of benign carnivorism. Since that piece was critical of the view I myself hold, I thought it might be worthwhile balancing things out by looking at an opposing view.
There’s a condition I’ve noted among former hard-core science-fiction fans that for want of a better word I’ll call future-deflation. The condition consists of an air of disappointment and detachment with the present that emerges on account of the fact that the future one dreamed of in one’s youth has failed to materialize. It was a dream of what the 21st century would entail that was fostered by science-fiction novels, films and television shows, a dream that has not arrived, and will seemingly never arrive- at least within our lifetimes. I think I have a cure for it, or at least a strong preventative.
The Obama administration’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues held a session on the ethical issues of cognitive enhancement, as part of the ethical, social, legal issues wing of the federal BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative. IEET co-founder and author of the new bestseller SuperIntelligence, Nick Bostrom was one of four asked to testify. His comments focused on the importance of ensuring egalitarian access to and benefits from cognitive enhancement.
Materials and how we use them are inextricably linked to the development of human society. Yet amazing as historic achievements using stone, wood, metals and other substances seem, these are unbelievably crude compared to the full potential of what could be achieved with designer materials.
An ongoing debate in ontology concerns the question of whether ideas or the physical reality have primacy. In my view, the physical reality is clearly ontologically primary, because it makes possible the thinking and idea-generation which exist only as very sophisticated emergent processes depending on multiple levels of physical structures (atoms, cells, tissues, organs, organisms of sufficient complexity – and then a sufficiently rich history of sensory experience to make the formation of interesting ideas supportable).
There was an interesting panel discussion at the Transhuman Visions Conference in San Francisco, February 1, 2014, which got even interesting-er when the following question was posed: “If you knew you could live for 1,000 years or more, would you possibly become so risk-averse that you may be afraid to do anything that is even remotely dangerous and consequently live a long, but very insular and inhibited life?”
A key future use of neural electrode technology envisioned for nanomedicine and cognitive enhancement is intracortical recording devices that would capture the output signals of multiple neurons that are related to a given activity, for example signals associated with movement, or the intent of movement.
On Parfit’s View That We Are Not Human Beings Derek Parfit claims that we are not human beings, but parts of them. Specifically, each of us is the part of a human being that thinks in the strictest sense. This is supposed to solve a number of difficult metaphysical problems. I argue that the view has grave metaphysical problems of its own, that it cannot solve the problems it is said to solve, and that it is inconsistent with the view of our identity over time that Parfit adduces in its support.
Buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice, lies Lake Whillans. Despite being of the most inhospitable places on Earth, Lake Whillans was still thought to contain life. In early 2014 a team of scientists trekked across the ice, tasked with drilling 800 metres down to the lake and looking for evidence of life. Reporter Douglas Fox went with them, and he tells us about his experiences.
This is the sixth part in my series on Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. The series is covering those parts of the book that most interest me. This includes the sections setting out the basic argument for thinking that the creation of superintelligent AI could threaten human existence, and the proposed methods for dealing with that threat.
Socrates of Singularity 1 on 1 interviews Jerome C. Glenn on the current status of the world. Are we winning, losing, or somewhere in the middle? What does that even mean? Find out on this episode of Singularity 1 on 1!
In this second discussion with Glenn we cover a wide variety of topics such as: The State of the Future report; if the world is coming to an end; the definition of war and the conflicts in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine; things that changed and things that did not change since the last interview; infectious disease epidemics and the containment thereof; bitcoin - the currency and the technology; the 15 global challenges and why ethics is one of them; sea/salt water agriculture; the growing rich-poor gap and technological unemployment…
My three most favorite quotes that I will take away from the 2nd interview with Jerome C. Glenn are:
“Science is an epistemology in the house of philosophy.”
“Love works and hate doesn’t.”
[...] and my favorite one:
“What works best is idealism but tempered by realism. [...] Listen to the negative but don’t let it bury you.”
As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.
Jerome C. Glenn co-founded and directs The Millennium Project, a leading global participatory think tank supported by international organizations, governments, corporations, and NGOs, which produces the internationally recognized State of the Future annual reports for the past 16 years. Jerome Glenn invented the “Futures Wheel”, a futures assessment technique; Futuristic Curriculum Development, and concepts such as conscious-technology, transinstitutions, tele-nations, management by understanding, feminine brain drain, just-in-time knowledge, feelysis, nodes as a management concept for interconnecting global and local views and actions, and definitions of environmental security, collective Intelligence, and scenarios. He has consulted for governments, corporations, UN organizations, and NGOs. He wrote about information warfare in the late 1980s in his book Future Mind, sent his first email in 1973, and was hired by the Quakers action arm to organize the environmental programs in New England 1971. More recently he led the design and implementation of collective intelligence systems for the Global Climate Change Situation Room in South Korea, the Prime Minister’s Office of Kuwait, and now the Global Futures Collective Intelligence System
Saturday Review named him among the most unusually gifted leaders of America for his pioneering work in Tropical Medicine, Future-Oriented Education, and Participatory Decision Making Systems in 1974. He was instrumental in naming the first Space Shuttle the Enterprise and banning the first space weapon (FOBS) in SALT II. He has published over 150 future-oriented articles, spoken to over 300 organizations, written several books (Future Mind, Linking the Future, and co-author of Space Trek), and is the editor of Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0.
“Every office full of ambitious people has them. And we have all worked with at least one—the co-worker with an inexplicable ability to rise in the ranks,” wrote the Wall Street Journal recently in an article entitled What Corporate Climbers Can Teach Us. “‘How do they do it?’ we may ask ourselves or whisper to friends at work,” it continued. “They don't have more experience. They don't seem that brilliant.”
We created the Achieving Personal Immortality Roadmap. It represents the general view on the tasks of transhumanism. It is not enough detailed, because each line requires a larger amount of texts to explain it. At some point of time we will present the plans of action on the key points and will explain how and why they need to be implemented. Nonetheless, we believe it is important to demonstrate the comprehensive view on the problem of achieving physical immortality.
The Roadmap to Personal Immortality is list of actions that one should do to live forever. The most obvious way to reach immortality is to defeat aging, to grow and replace the diseased organs with new bioengineered ones, and in the end to be scanned into a computer. This is Plan A. It is the best possible course of events. It depends on two things – your personal actions (like regular medical checkups) and collective actions like civil activism and scientific research funding. The map is showing both paths in Plan A.
However, if Plan A fails, meaning if you die before the victory over aging, there is Plan B, which is cryonics. Some simple steps can be taken now, like calling your nearest cryocompany about a contract.
Unfortunately, cryonic could also fail, and then you can move to Plan C. Of course it is much worse – less reliable and less proven. Plan C is the so called digital immortality, that means one could be returned to life based on the existing recorded information about that person. It is a not the best plan, because we are not sure how to solve the identity problem, which will arise, and also we don’t know if collected amount of information would be enough. But it is still better than nothing.
Lastly, if Plan C fails, we have Plan D. It is not a plan in fact – it is just hope or a bet that immortality already exists somehow, maybe there is quantum immortality, or maybe the future AI will bring us back to life.
All Plans demand particular actions now – we need to prepare to all of them simultaneously. All of the Plans will lead to the same result – our minds will be uploaded into a computer and will merge with AI. So these plans are in fact multilevel defense mechanisms against death structured in the most logical way.
This map is the political program of the Longevity party – this is what we are going to do. We presented the Roadmap together with Alexei Turchin near the White House as an action to increase public attention for life extension.
Aging is the main cause of death. Slowing down aging is an extremely complicated task that requires collaboration of hundreds of scientific labs and clinical facilities. It is not going to happen on its own. Active members of the society must signal that they are ready to fight for their right to live.
That’s why Alexei Turchin and I came to the White House on August 16 to set an example for transhumanists of the world how one should fight for their interests. We presented the Achieving Personal Immortality Roadmap and “I demand funding for anti aging research” and “Immortality” posters. The Roadmap reflects our point of view on what each person should do to preserve their life.
We call upon everyone who shares the ideas of radical life extension to do street actions with us. Let’s do poster sessions in front of the White House, rallies, art actions, simply meet on a regular basis in bars. Join our Facebook group – Longevity Party. Together we will change the situation and will help raise enough funding for scientific research in human longevity.
Self-control and attentiveness are cornerstones of moral character, and our capacity for these virtues are about half hard-wired. A child’s capacity for self-control predicts their adult likelihood of a successful life, and of myriad bad habits. I discuss the relationship of attention to moral behavior, the ways we can build a more mindful society, and how we can practice self-control and mindfulness with techniques like fasting, exercise and meditation. But many of us, even if we have above average capacities for self-control and attention, will also benefit from the growing number of technologies that enable self-control, from stimulant medications and treatments for addiction to gene therapies and brain-machine devices.