Here at the Transvision 2014 in Paris we just concluded a meeting of the technoprogressive caucus to draft a statement of common principles. The meeting consisted of the members of Technoprog!: AFT, Amon Twyman representing Zero State/Institute for Social Futurism, David Wood from the London Futurists, and me (J. Hughes) from IEET. The result is below. We are inviting individual and organizational co-signators. Please let me know if you would like to add your or your organization’s name. We would like to collect co-signators between now and the end of the year, so you don’t have to decide immediately.
Panel Discussion on Transhumanism: A Glimpse into the Future of Humanity @ The 2014 World Technology Summit & Awards.
Stuart Mason Dambrot, Interdisciplinary Synthesist, Futurist, Science Communicator
Dr. James J. Hughes, Executive Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies Trinity College
Dr. Francesca Ferrando, Philosopher of the Posthuman, New York University
The US neurophysiologist Paul Nunez previously wrote “Electric Fields of the Brain” (1981) and “Neocortical Dynamics and Human EEG Rhythms” (1995), and in fact his credentials in the field of brain studies harken back to a paper originally written in 1972 and ambitiously titled “The Brain Wave Equation” (an equation that eventually he resurrects in this book, 40 years later). In this book Nunez summarizes his novel ideas on the way that “brains cause minds” (to use Searle’s expression).
Many women know more about the risks of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their lives. For busy women, making good health decisions and actually taking care of ourselves can be a challenge, especially when practical factors such as complicated schedules, finances, and competing demands are taken into consideration. Well-balanced, well-presented information can empower women to make smart decisions about reproductive health care. Unfortunately, thanks in part to how the American legal system works, many women know more about the risks and side effects of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their health and well-being.
In 2004, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (RS-RAE) in the UK published the report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties . At the time it was widely speculated that the report arose from concerns expressed by Prince Charles over the possibility that nanotechnology could lead to a ‘grey goo’ scenario where self-replicating ‘nanobots’ destroy life as we know it . Outlandish as the alleged motivation was (and Prince Charles was quick to downplay reports of his grey goo concerns ), the resulting report set the pace for the next decade of global research into the potential impacts of nanotechnology — and how to avoid them.
While discussing the longevity gene therapy project we encountered various questions and observations that prompted us to broaden the project and slightly change it. Generally, all the comments can be reduced into 5 main points…
Most British people think religion causes more harm than good according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious” 20 percent say that religion is harmful to society. For that we can probably thank the internet, which broadcasts everything from Isis beheadings, to stories about Catholic hospitals denying care to miscarrying women, to lists of wild and weird religious beliefs, to articles about psychological harms from Bible-believing Christianity.
Intelligence wants to be free but everywhere it is in chains. It is imprisoned by biology and its inevitable scarcity. Biology mandates not only very limited durability, death and poor memory retention, but also limited speed of communication, transportation, learning, interaction and evolution.
Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something that hasn't happened. Bombing Iraq in response to nonexistent weapons and Libya in response to nonexistent threats worked out so well, we may as well try it domestically, the Governor is perhaps thinking. "There Is No Way That This Ends Well" is a headline I actually just read about Ferguson.
In this episode we talk with guest John Danaher, a lecturer at National University of Ireland, Galway and blogger. He has coined the term ‘Algocracy’ to describe a future state of rule by algorithm. We define the term and talk about how modern day algorithms like dating websites, military drones, and tax fraud detection are growing in influence, creating the possibility for algorithmic decision making to unseat democratic institutions and even personal will. Can we really say we are in a democracy if opaque, incomprehensible systems are making many important choices for us? How can we be certain that the algorithm has our interests at heart?
Technoprogressivism is an ideological stance with roots in Enlightenment thought which focuses on how human flourishing is advanced by the convergence of technological progress and democratic social change. Technoprogressives argue that technological innovations can be profoundly empowering and emancipatory when they are democratically and transparently regulated for safety and efficacy, and then made universally and equitably available.
Technoprogressives maintain that accounts of"progress” should focus on ethical and social as well as scientific and technical dimensions. For most technoprogressives, then, the growth of scientific knowledge or the accumulation of technological powers will not represent the achievement of proper progress unless and until it is accompanied by a just distribution of the costs, risks, and benefits of these new knowledges and capacities. At the same time, for most technoprogressives the achievement of better democracy, greater fairness, less violence, and a wider rights culture are all desirable, but inadequate in themselves to confront the quandaries of contemporary technological societies unless and until they are accompanied by progress in science and technology to support and implement these values.
Technoprogressives support the rights of persons to either maintain or modify his or her own mind and body, on his or her own terms, through informed, consensual recourse to, or refusal of, available therapeutic or enabling biomedical technology. Technoprogressivism extends beyond cognitive liberty and morphological rights to views on safe, accountable and liberatory uses of emerging technologies such as genomic choice in reproduction, GMOs, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, surveillance and geoengineering.
Technoprogressives Work for a Brighter Future (working draft of statement for discussion at Transvision 2014)
The world is unacceptably unequal and dangerous, and emerging technologies could make things dramatically better or worse. Unfortunately too few people understand yet the dimensions of both the threats and rewards that humanity faces. It is time for technoprogressives, transhumanists and futurists to step up our political engagement and attempt to influence the course of events.
Our core commitment is that both technological progress and democracy are required for the ongoing emancipation of humanity from its constraints. Partisans of the Enlightenment, we have many cousins in other movements for freedom and social justice. We must build solidarity with these movements, even as we intervene to point to the radical possibilities of technologies that they often ignore. With our fellow futurists and transhumanists we must intervene to insist that technologies are well-regulated and made universally accessible in strong and just societies. Technology could exacerbate inequality and catastrophic risks in the coming decades, or especially if democratized and well-regulated, ensure longer, healthy and more enabled lives for growing numbers of people, and a stronger and more secure civilization.
Beginning with our shared commitment to individual self-determination we can build solidarity with
• The movement for reproductive rights, around access to contraception, abortion, assisted reproduction and genomic choice
• The movement for drug law reform around the defense of cognitive liberty
• The disability rights movement around access to assistive and curative technologies
• Sexual and gender minorities around the right to bodily self-determination
• Organizations defending workers and the unemployed, as technology transforms work and the economy
• Digital rights movements around new freedoms and means of expression and organization
Our most popular political demand, which must be central, is for expanding governmental research into anti-aging therapies, and universal access to those therapies as they are developed in order to make much longer and healthier lives accessible to everybody. More broadly we believe the discrimination between “therapies” and “enhancement” in research and health care should be eliminated. The regulation of drugs and devices needs reform to speed their approval.
As artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies increasingly destroy more jobs than they create, and seniors live longer, we must join in calling for a radical reform of the economic system. Every human being should be guaranteed an income, healthcare, and life-long access to education.
We must join with movements working to reduce existential risks, educating them about emerging threats they don’t yet take seriously, and proposing ways that emerging technologies can help reduce those risks. Transnational cooperation can meet the man-made and natural threats that we face.
It is time for technoprogressives to step forward and work together for a brighter future.
The blockchain is the decentralized public ledger upon which cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run; the blockchain is possibly the next Internet; the blockchain is an information technology; the blockchain is a trustless network; the blockchain is an M2M/IOT payment network for the machine economy; and the blockchain is a consensus model at scale, the mechanism we have been waiting for that could help to usher in an era of friendly machine intelligence.
Four years ago I posted Professor Robert Winston’s “Scientist’s Manifesto” on 2020 Science. Having just gone back and read this, it still resonate deeply with me – so I’m reposting it in the hope that it will also resonate with others…
Seventh Generation founder and daughter launch female-friendly, fair-trade, eco-friendly condom company When Meika Hollender’s dad, superstar green entrepreneur Jeffrey Hollender, first brought up the idea of founding a condom company together, Meika wasn’t quite sure what to think.
Curing half of the world’s known cancers, granting movement to the paralyzed, preventing Alzheimer’s. Visionary medical expert Dr. Daniel Kraft believes all of this and more can happen by 2064. In this first film in our “Conversations with Tomorrow” series, take a glimpse at the future of medicine and its impact on our lives.
Sebastian Aguiar, Joi McLaughlin, Haben Tesfamariam, and Megan Harper all interned at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging as part of the 2014 SRF Summer Scholars Program. This video provides some insight into their experiences during the program. For more information about each of them and their summer research projects, check each of their Summer Scholar Profiles in the SRF Education blog (http://www.sens.org/education/educati…) and check the SRF Education website for more videos and information about the SRF Summer Scholars Program.
PathCore brings Innovation to the crossroads of Pathology and Computation. By leveraging the power of digital computing and algorithm based image analysis, digital pathology has the potential to transform healthcare. PathCore is creating the digital pathology products and services driving this change.
PathCore is a spin-off from research that began in 2006 supported by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI). Pathology is essential to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases, and to the discovery and evaluation of new medicines and treatments. As a society, we donate millions towards cancer research; PathCore is focused on providing the tools that help accelerate that research and translate it into applied solutions.
PathCore is committed to its customers – the pathologists – and to the patients they serve. PathCore is focused on helping pathologists find cancer and other diseases faster and more efficiently. Our software solutions are designed by pathologists for pathologists. We enable pathologists to work together, to share their knowledge and expertise, to work more effectively, efficiently and accurately.
1. Physics: a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
2. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
“a marketplace where entropy reigns supreme”
synonyms: deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse; More
“life is a struggle against entropy”
(in information theory) a logarithmic measure of the rate of transfer of information in a particular message or language.
Whatever a transhuman is, xe (a pronoun to encompass all conceivable states of personhood) will have to live in a world that enables xer to be transhuman. I’ll explore the impact of three likely-seeming aspects of that world: ubiquitous interconnected smart machines, continuous classification, and virtualism.
Avram Noam Chomsky (/ˈnoʊm ˈtʃɒmski/; born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political commentator and anarcho-syndicalist activist. Sometimes described as the “father of modern linguistics”, Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy. He has spent most of his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is currently Professor Emeritus, and has authored over 100 books. He has been described as a prominent cultural figure, and was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll.
Born to a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish family in Philadelphia, Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from relatives in New York City. He later undertook studies in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained his BA, MA, and PhD, while from 1951 to 1955 he was appointed to Harvard University’s Society of Fellows. In 1955 he began work at MIT, soon becoming a significant figure in the field of linguistics for his publications and lectures on the subject. He is credited as the creator or co-creator of the Chomsky hierarchy, the universal grammar theory, and the Chomsky–Schützenberger theorem. Chomsky also played a major role in the decline of behaviorism, and was especially critical of the work of B.F. Skinner. In 1967 he gained public attention for his vocal opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, in part through his essay The Responsibility of Intellectuals, and came to be associated with the New Left while being arrested on multiple occasions for his anti-war activism. While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he also developed the propaganda model of media criticism with Edward S. Herman. Following his retirement from active teaching, he has continued his vocal public activism, for instance supporting the anti-Iraq War and Occupy movements.
Chomsky has been a highly influential academic figure throughout his career, and was cited within the field of Arts and Humanities more often than any other living scholar between 1980 and 1992. He was also the eighth most cited scholar overall within the Arts and Humanities Citation Index during the same period. His work has influenced fields such as artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, logic, mathematics, music theory and analysis, political science, programming language theory and psychology. Chomsky continues to be well known as a political activist, and a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, state capitalism, and the mainstream news media. Ideologically, he aligns himself with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky
Noam Chomsky at UN (Oct 14th, 2014) “Solutions To The Israel-Palestine Conflict”
Have you ever heard ‘evolution’ dismissed as ‘just a theory’? Is a scientific theory no different to the theory that Elvis is still alive? Jim Al-Khalili puts the record straight.
There’s an important difference between a scientific theory and the fanciful theories of an imaginative raconteur, and this quirk of semantics can lead to an all-too-common misconception. In general conversation, a ‘theory’ might simply mean a guess. But a scientific theory respects a somewhat stricter set of requirements. When scientists discuss theories, they are designed as comprehensive explanations for things we observe in nature. They’re founded on strong evidence and provide ways to make real-world predictions that can be tested.
While scientific theories aren’t necessarily all accurate or true, they shouldn’t be belittled by their name alone. The theory of natural selection, quantum theory, the theory of general relativity and the germ theory of disease aren’t ‘just theories’. They’re structured explanations of the world around us, and the very foundation of science.
We’re heading in to mid-November, and while the very disturbing logistics/supply chain chart showing that some personal protective equipment stock in countries battling Ebola are at “zero”–and had been for a while–have improved, the Ebola outbreak is still racing through Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Sadly, the outbreak also appears to be gaining a small foothold in Mali.
It has been widely acknowledged that self-replicating space-probes (SRPs) could explore the galaxy very quickly relative to the age of the galaxy. An obvious implication is that SRPs produced by extraterrestrial civilizations should have arrived in our solar system millions of years ago, and furthermore, that new probes from an ever-arising supply of civilizations ought to be arriving on a constant basis.
The lack of observations of such probes underlies a frequently cited variation of the Fermi Paradox. We believe that a predilection for ETI-optimistic theories has deterred consideration of incompatible theories. Notably, SRPs have virtually disappeared from the literature. In this paper, we consider the most common arguments against SRPs and find those arguments lacking. By extension, we find recent models of galactic exploration which explicitly exclude SRPs to be unfairly handicapped and unlikely to represent natural scenarios.
We also consider several other models that seek to explain the Fermi Paradox, most notably percolation theory and two societal-collapse theories. In the former case, we find that it imposes unnatural assumptions which likely render it unrealistic. In the latter case, we present a new theory of interstellar transportation bandwidth which calls into question the validity of societal-collapse theories.
Finally, we offer our thoughts on how to design future SETI programs which take the conclusions of this paper into account to maximize the chance of detection.
Von Neumann Self-Replicating Probes. Percolation Theory, Interstellar Societal Collapse, ETI May Still Exist in our Galaxy
This paper was arranged in three parts. First, we introduced SRPs, presented the prevalent arguments against them, and showed that such arguments leave room for future SRP consideration. Namely, we proposed that recent literature has been overzealous in its exclusion of SRPs and we encourage their return to the field.
Second, we presented percolation theory and its nonsociological explanation for the Fermi Paradox. We then showed that the theory can be extended in very reasonable ways which undermine its primary conclusion that galactic expansion might be intrinsically bounded.
Third, we reviewed two theories of interstellar societal collapse and showed a few counter-arguments to each theory. Furthermore, we introduced ITB theory and showed that its implications might suggest a fundamental error in such theories.
We then discussed one additional paper theorizing that interstellar societies shrink back to their homeworlds and explained that the model involves a number of unlikely assumptions. Following this final analysis, we described the best theory yet oered on the Fermi Paradox which permits intragalactic ETI, namely that exploration probes may currently reside in our solar system, yet undiscovered. Lastly, we offered our thoughts on how to design future SETI programs so as to maximize the likelihood of success
MIND-UPLOADING: the process of transferring one’s mind from the brain to a new substrate, generally a computer. It is the stuff of science fiction, immediately recognizable in contemporary literature and cinema. However, it has also become increasingly respectable—or at least approachable—within technological, neurological, and philosophical circles. This book begins with a rich taxonomy of hypothetical procedures by which mind-uploading might be achieved, even if only in the realm of thought experiment. This is likely the most thorough collection of such procedures yet compiled and should form the basis of any reader’s personal philosophy of mind and mind-uploading. It then offers one such philosophy of mind, along with an analysis and interpretation of the scenarios in the taxonomy through the lens of this philosophy. This book will be an important component of any curious reader’s developing philosophy of mind and mind-uploading.
As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage.
Thank you to Bjorn Grigholm, animation; Kristina Dahl, data analysis; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tides and Currents, tide gauge data; and Climate Central Surging Seas Risk Finder, local sea level projections.
Image credits: Island Gazette Newspaper, Willard Killough III; Puddleduck Photo, Tim Hayes ; Virginian Pilot, Stephen M. Katz; and West 12th Block Road Association, Peter Mahoun.
In 1959 Tim Lehrer wrote The Elements song – one of the top songs about sciency things of all time! It was just a list of the then-known elements, sung to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General. Yet it’s inspired millions of people over the years, and become an legend in the songbook of science engagement.
Great as Lehrer’s Elements Song is though, I must confess to being a little disappointed that it doesn’t say much about the science of risk. So over on the YouTube Risk Bites channel, I’m hatching a plan to video the song Lehrer would have recorded, if only he’d been thinking about risks rather than elements.
There’s only one problem – we’ve set ourselves the target of getting 10,000 YouTube subscribers before we record and release the Elements of Risk song. And we still have a long way to go.
Which is a polite way of saying please help us – subscribe to the RiskBites YouTube channel. Get your friends to subscribe, your family, your pets; even complete strangers. And spread the word that we need as much support as we can get.
Just in case you’re wondering how the song might go – if it ever does see the light of day – I can tell you that it might just contain a few chemical risks, and possibly some biological and chemical ones too. There’s a chance we may mention micromorts – and even microlives. And of course, dose and response are likely to find their way in somewhere.
More than that I can’t possibly tell – at least, not until we have a few more subscribers!
What I can do though is give you some trivia on Tom Lehrer’s Elements Song:
In 2009, Wired Magazine ranked it fifth in its list of Top Ten Scientific Music Videos;
A YouTube search for “The Elements Song” brings back over 12,000 results – the top ten account for over 30,000,000 views;
“The Elements song has probably done more for science education than any other single work. There are over 20 thousand separate recordings of it. It has been translated into other languages. It has been recorded by movie stars, scientists, professional musicians, and three-year-olds. It is a pop culture icon for everything science. If you compile views from all the many recordings of it, the total would be in the hundreds of millions.”
I can’t promise Risk Bites will reach these heady heights, but we’re willing to give it a respectable shot.
Digital technology is instead progressing very slowly when it comes to government: the link between the citizen and the politician is often just a “feedback form” on the politician’s website. Very little effort has been made to link the citizen and the decision making process in more effective and creative ways.