On May 3, 2008, shortly after finishing second at the Kentucky Derby, filly Eight Belles went crashing to the ground, the result of sustained compound fractures to both her front legs. The horse’s injuries were so devastating that she had to be euthanized right there on the track, much to the horror of the 157,770 spectators. Last week, a number of baseball pundits noticed that home run production was significantly down across the Majors. And not by just a little bit. It’s being predicted that this season could see a drop of 1,000 home runs compared to the 2006 season. Last year saw a drop of nearly 600 home runs compared to 2006. Home runs, it would appear, are on the decline. What do these two seemingly unrelated stories have in common? Performance-enhancing drugs.
When Hollywood movies depict mutated human beings — sometimes beautifully, grotesquely, or bizarrely transformed in appearance from the Homo sapiens norm — they draw upon traditions that are thousands of years old. Throughout recorded history, human myths, legends, and folktales have described recognisably anthropomorphic beings that nonetheless deviate from species-typical human morphology and/or possess greater than human powers.
A lot of discussion has been going around regarding Pistorius. Should he or shouldn’t he be allowed to compete for a spot in the Beijing Olympics? If he makes it, should he or shouldn’t he be allowed to compete. There’s concern over what this will do to sports in general; what kind of message is it sending out to others; and how it could throw off future comparisons within the sport, making some sports records incomparable.
Over 200 years ago, Adam Smith proclaimed, "I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." Rather, he asserted that when any given business owner or consumer "intends only his own gain, [he] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it." Thus, in "pursuing his own interest," he will be "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."
Over at the Bad Idea Blog, “Bad” notes that advocates of same-sex marriage often simply dismiss slippery slope arguments such as the claim that judicial rulings in favour of same-sex marriage would lead to the legal recognition of polygamy.
The enchanting Natasha Mitchell on why the pursuit of happiness is a global obsession. Can science investigate happiness? What are the metrics—self report, brain activity, or the good deeds we do? Five world leaders in the field join Natasha Mitchell in conversation—neuroscientist Richard Davidson, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace, psychologist Daniel Gilbert and philosopher David Chalmers. (MP3) (Transcript)
IEET Fellow Ben Goertzel organized the first Artificial General Intelligence conference, which was held FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis, March 1-3, 2008. This talk was his opening overview of the field. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) research focuses on the original and ultimate goal of AI—to create intelligence as a whole, by exploring all available paths, including theoretical and experimental computer science, cognitive science, neuroscience, and innovative interdisciplinary methodologies. (video / transcript / slides)
It’s a standard trope in environmental commentary: we would need more than one Earth to support the planet’s population, especially if everyone lived like Americans. The number of Earths needed can vary greatly, depending upon who’s doing the counting. 1.2? Two? Three? Five? Ten?
Since founding CRN five years ago, we’ve been concerned that the unprecedented power of molecular manufacturing and the potential for exponential proliferation of nanofactory technology may make it essential to create an international administration to regulate it. Half a decade later, have global political conditions changed in any way to make this outcome seem more likely?
PJ Manney is a television and film script writer (including for Xena and Hercules), and the new chair of the World Transhumanist Association. We talk about the biopolitics of popular culture, the technothriller novel she is writing, the meaning of transhumanism, and the merits of un-conferencing.
I’ve been fascinated with the growth in public awareness recently regarding bionic athletes. It’s very interesting to watch something go from fringe and then mainstream. Almost a year ago, an article by Jamais Casico made me take a real look at what it is to be bionic when he talked about his cochlear implantThe Accidental Cyborg. Since then, I’ve had a heightened awareness and intrigue for the topic.
People often ask me for my definition of the technological Singularity. More specifically, they want me to offer some predictions as to what it will actually look like and what it might mean to them and the human species.
Leon Kass, the scientific community frowns on your deathist shenanigans and paternalistic tomfoolery. We will continue to denounce your anti-freedom, control-freak bioethical views until the day your theocon allies are booted out of the White House, which will occur on January 20, 2009. Enjoy your eight months.
Harvard’s Michael Sandel argues in his book The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering that life is a gift and that we should accept the unbidden nature of this gift, working toward acceptance and solidarity with others rather than seeking unbridled mastery over human biology. But is life properly viewed as a gift?
Akansha is an aspiring scientist, philosopher and science journalist who joins us from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is currently completing her senior thesis on Alexander’s disease at the Waisman Center.
The Fermi Paradox—if there’s other intelligent life in the galaxy, given how long the galaxy’s been here, how come we haven’t seen any indication of it?—is an important puzzle for those of us who like to think ahead. Setting aside the mystical (we’re all that was created by a higher being) and fundamentally unprovable (we’re all living in a simulation), we’re left with two unpalatable options: we’re the first intelligent species to arise; or no civilization ever makes it long enough.
There’s two kinds of people asking me about the economy lately: people with money wanting to know how to keep it “safe,” and people without money, wanting to know how to keep safe, themselves. Maybe it’s the difference between those two concerns that best explains the underlying nature of today’s fiscal crisis.
Shannon Vyff is author of 21st Century Kids, an SF novel for kids. We talk about futurism, cryonics, social justice, calorie restriction, talking to kids about death, and teaching transhumanism in the Unitarian Universalist Sunday School program. (MP3)
Discussions of the implications of the augmentation of our biological bodies with prosthetic technologies can be found quite readily in the esoteric discourses of self-described transhumanists, social theorists and bioethicists.
Abstract: This article investigates the conceptual distinctions between therapy and various forms of human enhancement. It begins by proposing a typology of human enhancements in order to make more rigorous and grounded discussions about the distinction between therapy and enhancement. Three types of human enhancement are proposed: 1) engineering traits of accepted value, 2) engineering traits of contested value and 3) radical transhuman enhancements. Subsequently, the paper explores the distinctions between the ethical justifications that are advanced for therapeutic interventions, comparing them with human enhancements, concluding that the salient characteristic of health-related suffering enables enhancement to gain legitimacy from the perspective of traditional medical ethics. Finally, the paper considers a number of practical obstructions to the realization of radical transhuman enhancements. Specifically, it discusses procedural obstacles to approving experimental medical research for human enhancements, the likely commercialization of human enhancements that would ensue from their development, and the need to develop experimental medical interventions via animal models.
Miah, Andy (2008) “Engineering Greater Resilience or Radical Transhuman Enhancement?,”
# An overview of my recent talk at the Center for Inquiry
# Discussing Twitter and Google Apps
# Part 3 of my Fermi Paradox talk: Possible solutions and next steps
# Why the male birth-control pill is so important for men; sorry, ladies—this pill isn’t about you