“Empathy” is a word that props up quite frequently in IEET articles and comment threads, but it is also one of those words that people use quite a lot without necessarily having a very clear idea of what it means. I therefore thought it might be helpful to share some reflections about what empathy actually is, and why it might be important for the future of humanity.
Would a person whose immune system starts declining after puberty, and finally gives up before 123, be normal? This statement largely sums up my transhumanist view that “normal” is misunderstood. The physiological (cognitive and the somatic) state of human existence “normality” ought to be a state of enhancement.
In Orwell’s 1984, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by television cameras. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, which is the core “truth” of the propaganda system in this state. Since the publication of 1984, the term “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.
In a survey taken of over 4,000 scientists across the globe, 70% of whom were men, researchers found that people consider science a “family unfriendly” career. Over half of survey respondents said that work clashed with family responsibilities several days per week. While women in the sciences have long complained of problems with work/family life balance, this is one of the first studies to reflect widespread male dissatisfaction with the same issue.
I was checking out a facebook posting in which people were asked to suggest one additional verse to the Bible. What was interesting was the number that said directly or indirectly that we were expected to think for ourselves. One of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples was that they were no longer slaves but heirs. Being an heir means responsibility. It means that we need to think about what we are doing.
We asked “Do you believe in a universal Basic Income Guarantee? What amount would be satisfactory?” More than half of respondents approved of a universal stipend of something between the poverty level and the median income, and another 9% approved of a universal stipend of something less than the poverty level.
First of all, I do not believe for a second that Iran ever had any intention of destroying Israel. I believe the Iranian regime is a very rational and pragmatic regime, one that has worked with Russia and China (both guilty of atrocities against Muslims) and whose closest ally is Syria (a Sunni country). We are always told that the enemy (whether the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein) is an irrational demon in order to justify our own irrational behavior, but later find out that the demon’s first priority was its own survival.
Two weeks ago we asked how pills that safely “make people nicer by increasing their patience and empathy” should be regulated. Of the more than 250 people who voted, two thirds endorsed wide access to such drugs. (We will be sponsoring a conference at NYU in two weeks to discuss the topic of moral enhancement.)
One of the most vexing questions for technoprogressives and transhumanists is how to maintain the hard-won gains toward political equality among citizens as we become more diverse in our bodies and abilities. Francis Fukuyama pointed to the challenge in Our Posthuman Future, and Nicholas Agar addressed the issue in Humanity’s End. Technoprogressives believe that an expanded transhuman solidarity is possible if enhancement is made widely and equitably available, and if we we fight for a society committed to the rights of all persons. But it won’t be easy. In this story David Brin reflects on political and even theological challenges of the advent of a society with radical enhancement.
A scientific study has now confirmed what many women have known for ages, which is that certain types of exercise can induce orgasm. Indiana University health researchers Debby Herbernick and Dennis Fortenberry have just conducted a study of hundreds of women who report “exercise induced orgasms” (EIO), or “coregasms.”
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joel Rudinow who teaches Philosophy and Humanities at Santa Rosa Junior College. He is also author of Invitation to Critical Thinking. The topic of the interview is about the Posthuman mind and how critical thinking applies to such a concept. We discuss important issues from whether or not the Posthuman will be friendly to the evolution of critical thinking.
There is a domain of creatures that diffusively encircles an entire planet. There are so many of them that they occupy every conceivable ecological niche. Yet, despite their countless numbers they are so in tune with their local ecology that they have become an intrinsic part of it. Those that live in rural locations greatly outnumber those that inhabit strange cites, which are gregarious, smart and even have their own personalities. The cities consider themselves as being independent from their inhabitants, yet share their nutrition with them. They have a diurnal waste cycle that removes debris and also makes room for a new influx of city dwellers. Mature cities can even reproduce to make new ones that are immediately available for the city inhabitants to colonize.
Fear this? Mutant, homicidal wasps employed as border guards. Eavesdropping optimized birds spying on civilian activists. Hybrid human/beasts annihilating drafted youths on reality TV. All this DNA mayhem, and more, occurs in the bestsellers by Suzanne Collins, who replays an ancient device utilized in the classic myth of the Minotaur, a bull-man fusion that lurked in the Labyrinth of Crete.
IEET Executive Director J. Hughes, IEET Fellow Wendell Wallach and bioethicist Fabrice Jotterand join Connecticut public radio talk show host Colin McEnroe to discuss the exploding topic of “moral enhancement.”
Although I have used a version of utilitarianism to argue for both transhumanism and social democracy, and for the technoprogressive hybrid of the two, research in hedonic psychology and emerging neurotechnologies make utilitarianism an unattractive moral logic. Instead, I now argue that a version of Sen and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach better supports the technoprogressive endeavor. The capabilities approach argues for both social and technological enablement of human abilities. When the capabilities approach is combined with the idea that virtues are social capabilities, one conclusion is that “moral enhancement,” the use of neurotechnologies to enhance moral sentiment, cognition and behavior, is a social obligation. A schema of virtues to be enhanced, and relevant therapeutic morally enhancing neurochemicals, are discussed.
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