Consider the following passage from Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement. It concerns one of the novel’s characters (Briony) as she philosophically reflects on the mystery of human action:
She raised one hand and flexed its fingers and wondered, as she had sometimes done before, how this thing, this machine for gripping, this fleshy spider on the end of her arm, came to be hers, entirely at her command. Or did it have some little life of its own? She bent her finger and straightened it. The mystery was in the instant before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge.
There is so much human potential. I see it everywhere I turn. Yet something seems to hold us back, ever so slightly, from actually becoming a stable species. Yes, we have come a long way, yet at this moment in time it seems we have but two choices before us, begin to cooperate and live in harmony, or destroy everything, including our planet.
In his 1932 “My Credo” Albert Einstein wrote “I do not believe in free will.” In the best-seller Free Will, Sam Harris declares the notion “incoherent.” Neuro-philosopher Garrett Merriam opines in an IEET interview “the notion of ‘free will’.. [is a] useless concept… I have high hopes that neuroscience will…eliminate [it]…”
A friend emailed me to say that he believed that transhumanists should strive to be free, if free will doesn’t currently exist, or strive to be freer, if humans currently possess some small modicum of free will. He also suggested that becoming transhuman would expedite either process. In short he was claiming that transhumanists should desire more freedom.
Medical procedures and research are yucky. Good healthcare means getting over it. If religious conservatives have their way, reproductive healthcare will be dictated by the same psychology that drives middle school jokes about genitals, dead babies and poop—our instinctive squeamish reaction to things that are disgusting and shocking, especially if they relate to sex. Good thing public health advocates and medical providers have a higher set of priorities.
Back in the late winter I wrote a review of the biologist Edmund O. Wilson’s grandiloquently mistitled tract- TheMeaning of Human Existence. As far as visions of the future go Wilson’s was a real snoozer, although for that very reason it left little to be nervous about. The hope that he articulated in his book being that we somehow manage to keep humanity pretty much the same- genetically at least- “as a sacred trust”, in perpetuity. It’s a bio-conservatism that, on one level, I certainly understand, but one I also find incredibly unlikely given that the future consists of….well…. an awfully long stretch of time (that is as long as we’re wise enough or just plain lucky ). How in the world can we expect, especially in light of current advances in fields like genetics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence etc, that we can, or even should, keep humanity essentially unchanged not just now, but for 100 years, or 1000s year, 10,000s years, or even longer?
While less controversial than it was fifty years ago, psychotherapy is an anomalous feature of modern culture, plagued by defects. Among its shortcomings, psychotherapy has made remarkably little use of information technologies. This blog considers electronic devices to measure human emotional response, that may have been stigmatized by their use in radical religious movements, or by their origins in primitive attempts a century ago to cure neurotics. I do not recommend simply adopting those religious or therapeutic practices, but adapting the technology to new uses. A mentally healthy individual could employ emotion-sensing hardware to identify personal goals, consider the meaning of past events, and explore future possibilities.
Like our brains, the human penis hasn’t evolved in tens of thousands of years — and that’s a real shame. Our favorite male body part is capable of so much more. In consideration of pending advances in science and technology, here’s what to expect with penis 2.0.
Social thinkers long yearned for the kind of predictive power offered by universal laws of Galileo, Newton and Einstein—reductionist rules that changed our relationship with the material world, from helplessness to manipulative skill. If only similar patterns and laws were found for human nature! Might we construct an ideal society suited to decent living by all?
The current foundation phase of “Transhumanist” politics deserves a critical discussion of the philosophical principles that implicitly underlie its new political organization. As part of the effort towards a self-critical evaluation of political transhumanism, which is undoubtedly still in a very early phase of development, this chapter discusses the philosophy drafted by the founder of the “Transhumanist Party of the USA”, Zoltan Istvan, in his bestselling novel “The Transhumanist Wager” (2013) dedicated to develop the vision of a better society. Istvan called the philosophy underlying his meta-national, if not global, vision “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”. We discuss the achievements, contradictions and dialectics of and within this philosophy; its possible relation to realistic social policy programs; as well as the potential implications and consequences. The goal is to achieve a more considered overall discourse at the contested new ideological interface between humanism and transhumanism which could define an influential zeitgeist of our time.
On July 3, 2015 Julian Savulescu spoke at at the University of Melbourne conference on “Human Enhancement: Destiny or Disaster?” on “Partiality to Humanity and Enhancement.” Julian Savulescu discusses the bioethics of enhancement of persons - liberal and conservative views on enhancement, moral enhancement (of course) and ways forward. (Bernard Williams’ and Gerald Cohen’s conservative stances towards transhumanism are discussed). Great talk and interesting discussion afterwards.
On July 3, 2015 IEET Fellow Russell Blackford spoke at at the University of Melbourne conference on “Human Enhancement: Destiny or Disaster?” “What if Nothing is Sacred? Politics and Bioethics without Sanctity.” The prospect of enhancing human mental and physical abilities above normal limits has been enthusiastically embraced by several leading bioethicists and philosophers. However, many people are alarmed by the thought of humans being able to enhance themselves, fearing that this ability may be misused. In this conference leading philosophers and bioethicists come together to discuss whether or not human enhancement is the destiny we should embrace or a potential disaster we should avoid.
Politics is being shaped by our responses to the prospect of accelerating, exponential technological change. Technosceptics deny accelerating change will occur. Technoconservatives accept that accelerating change poses radical questions, and want to stem the tide of change. Technolibertarians believe accelerating change will be for the best, and technology and capitalism just need to be left to work their wonders. Technoprogressives believe accelerating change poses serious risks as well as rewards, and that we can maximize the rewards and minimize the risks through public policy.
Will humans ever live forever? With these technological advancements maybe one day. From Robot Avatars to Scientists Manipulating Molecules Alltime10s proudly presents 10 Technologies That Could Make Humans Immortal.
Is there any politically tractable strategy for transhumanism to avoid the Bismarckian move, which ultimately curtails the capacity of basic research to explore and challenge the fundamental limits of our being? My answer is as follows: Transhumanists need to take a more positive attitude towards the military.
When I started to work on this map of AI safety solutions, I wanted to illustrate the excellent 2013 article “Responses to Catastrophic AGI Risk: A Survey” by Kaj Sotala and IEET Affiliate Scholar Roman V. Yampolskiy, which I strongly recommend. However, during the process I had a number of ideas to expand the classification of the proposed ways to create safe AI.
IEET Fellow Ben Goertzel formalized emergence in his book ‘The Evolving Mind’ as patterns that appear when you put two or more things together that are not there in any of the individual parts. The concept of emergence is controversial to some - for example Eliezer Yudkowski, who favors reductionism, wrote a critique at Less Wrong. Do reductionists often dismiss emergence?
We turn from these abstractions to a concrete biological example: the mammalian immune system. The theory of clonal selection states that immune systems evolve by natural selection; using the computer simulations of Alan Perelson, Rob deBoer and their colleagues as a guide, we inquire as to the exact nature of this evolution.
We conclude that, in immune systems, survival is roughly proportional to emergence: those antibodies which generate a large amount of emergent pattern in conjunction with other antibodies, will tend to survive.
It is argued that this correlation between emergence and survival also applies to the evolution of species: that an organism which generates a large amount of emergent pattern in conjunction with its environment will tend to survive. Since the environment of each organism consists partially of other organisms, this implies that an ecosystem is an enormously complex “system of pattern equations.” This principle is illustrated with biological examples.”
We stand at the cusp of guaranteeing the survival of fundamental purpose in the universe, reality, and existence by insuring the continuation of consciousness. This is a far grander calling than merely enabling individual life extension. Existential metaphysical purpose is our foremost responsibility as conscious beings, and computer intelligence is the method of achieving it.
We asked the IEET audience “In the coming century will face-to-face, in-body sex be more or less common?” given tech that will encourage virtualization such as brainjacks, porn, sexbots, and electronically-mediated sex. Or will we revel in our newly young, perpetually healthy, and hormonally tweaked bodies by having a lot more face-to-face sex. The 140 of you who responded were two-to-one convinced we are headed for more virtual sex.
A decade ago, it was nearly inconceivable that in 2015, gay marriage would be legal across the US and marijuana fully legal in four states plus the District of Columbia. Yet it happened. It happened because citizens who wanted change led, from the bottom up, often through citizens initiatives.
Politics 2.0 – what might that mean? Like most people probably would, i immediately associated it with the numbering system commonly used in software releases, but having worked as a programmer for 30 years i could not see how this could be applied to something as complex and diffuse as politics. However if taken as something like a cognitive metaphor i still could not clearly grasp its meaning, beyond the vague implication of improvement over Politics 1.x, presumably what humanity is struggling with today.
What do vampires and Las Vegas atheists have in common? Ethical rules, social stigma, and a hunger for community. When people think about Las Vegas, most picture some combination of gambling, burlesque, night clubs and legalized prostitution—the pleasures that earned Vegas the nickname Sin City. But when Sociologist Lori Fazzino thinks about Las Vegas, she pictures churches.
Hosts Ted Kupper and IEET Affiliate Scholar Jon Perry discuss the future of advertising, which we define as the ‘sale of attention.’ People mostly hate ads, but why do they? Is it possible to make ads so well targeted that people actually enjoy the experience? We discuss the remarkably constant amount of advertising as a percent of GDP over a long stretch of history. We ponder the ways accelerating technologies might allow for better metrics and better ad designs in the future, and we wonder whether a large-scale consumer collapse might disrupt advertising’s steady growth. Speculating on the future, we imagine that nearly everything that remains scarce in the future might one day be ad-supported.