Oh my, I thought I was done for a while chastising skeptics like SamHarris on the relationship between philosophy, science and morality, and I just found out that my friend Michael Shermer has incurred a similar (though not quite as egregious as Harris’) bit of questionable thinking. As I explained in my review of Harris’ book for Skeptic, one learns precisely nothing about morality by reading The Moral Landscape. Indeed, one’s time on that topic is much better spent by leafing through Michael Sandel’s On Justice, for example.
In 2012, superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast to the tune of $50 to $60 billion in damage. A record-breaking drought wiped out almost a third of the nation’s corn crop,resulting in roughly $18 billion in losses. The Arctic ice cap shrank to a record minimum, decades ahead of the projections made by climate scientists as recently as 2007. In short, 2012 was the year that climate change made its impact, more than any other year in modern history. Worse, it’s just the beginning — a small taste of what’s to come.
“WheeMe by DreamBots is a palm size robot that gently massages and caresses as it moves slowly across your body. Embodying unique sensor technology, WheeMe automatically steers itself over your body without falling off or losing its grip in most cases. As it moves, WheeMe’s four small wheels and the rotor finger gently press and caress providing a delightful sense of bodily pleasure.” - wheeme.com
As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or, in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners, and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “Come Home” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand themselves. A hipster mega-church in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.
New Google hire and renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil sums up how technologies might play out over the next two decades with this claim: “If you remain in good health for 20 more years, you may never die.”
Kim Souzzi, a young woman diagnosed with brain cancer while studying neuroscience at college, passed away early in the morning of January 17th, at the age of 23. She was successfully cryo-preserved at Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Alcor CEO Max More said that there will be a summary of her stand by and preservation posted in the coming days on the Alcor blog: http://www.alcor.org/blog/
Josh Trank and Matt Landis’ 2012 film Chronicle provides an audience with what is ostensibly newly broken ground in the superhero genre. But even slightly scrape this outer facade and what one begins to see is a detailed - yet unvocalised - discussion on the ethical and moral standpoints occupied by trans-human characters within a definitively human social structure.
Albert Einstein famously asserted that “we will not solve present problems with the same thinking that created them”, so pointing out that the problems we now face—problems like climate change, rising income inequality, financial crises, resource depletion, and so on—are the product of old ways of thinking. The problems remain unsolved, in other words, only because our thinking hasn’t yet caught up. So it’s our thinking that needs to change.
“UC Riverside Assistant Professor David Kisailus is researching a marine snail called chiton to to create less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries” - UC Riverside
“Joscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.
Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon now: http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Synthetic-Intelligence-PSI-Architectures/dp/...” - Adam Ford
When I saw that the scientist and science-fiction novelist, David Brin, had given a talk at a recent Singularity Summit with the intriguing title “So you want to make gods? Now why would that bother anybody?” my hopes for the current intellectual debate between science and religion and between rival versions of our human future were instantly raised.
Out of South Africa’s nine provinces, the greatest number of farm-workers resides in the wealthy and fertile Western Cape.Despite their fundamental role in the success of our country’s valuable fruit, wine, and tourism industries, farm-workers benefit very little, in large part because they are subject to exploitative conditions and human rights abuses without sufficient protection of their rights.
“When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.)” - TED
Is the end of death in our future? Positive futurists say it is. Infectious disease, accidents, starvation, and violence have kept average life expectancy at 20-to-30 years throughout most of human history. However, the quest to live longer and enjoy good health is one of the most ancient and deep-rooted hopes ingrained in our species.
Manny Ramirez. Mark McGwire. Barry Bonds. Baseball is no stranger to superstars using steroids. Sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified from an Olympic victory decades ago. More likely than not, every sport has players who use ‘performance enhancing drugs’ – it’s just that the player’s performance is not generally enhanced to superstar status. Now Lance Armstrong has admitted to doping, and once again the world is shocked.
The west African nation of Ghana is rather widely known for its ‘witch camps’, where mainly old women who are accused of occult crimes and subsequently banished from their communities. They seek refuge in these ‘camps’ to avoid being killed by their family and community members. But in the village of Sang, off Tamale-Yendi Road, in the northern region of Ghana there is a care center for vulnerable children.
Bruce Sterling wrote influential works like Schismatrix and Islands in the Net, plus he practically invented cyberpunk (with all due respect, of course, to William Gibson and Rudy Rucker). We are serious fans of his work. And if his recent comments about the potential risks of greater-than-human artificial intelligence — or lack thereof — are any indication, he's itching to start a giant fight among futurists.
“Extreme heat, drought, storms, and other weather disasters are increasingly fueled by climate change and affect everyone regardless of political affiliation. Now two scientists — one who has usually voted for Republicans, the other for Democrats — have come together to urge leaders of both parties to find bipartisan solutions to human-caused climate change. Share this video—and urge Congress to find bipartisan solutions to climate change—at http://www.ucsusa.org/commonground.” - Union of Concerned Scientists
Will robots have souls? Do animals? Do we? At first glance, this line of questioning may appear to be purely theoretical, having no bearing on life until it ends and the individual discovers for them self what it’s all about. However, looking at the history of our species, the doctrine of the soul has been used to subjugate, to elevate, to enslave, and to empower based on an individual’s possession of one or lack thereof.
When I was fourteen, or thereabouts, one of the very first novels I read was theFoundation Trilogy of Isaac Asimov. Foundation is for anyone so presumptuous, as I was and still am, to have an interest in “big history”- the rise and fall of civilizations, the place of civilization within the history earth and the universe, the wonder at where we will be millenia hence, a spellbinding tale.
George Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. As Canada’s leading agenda-driven futurist/activist and an award-winning blogger, he writes and speaks widely about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology.
George is the Director of Operations for Commune Media, an advertising and marketing firm that specializes in marketing science. He is the co-founder and president of the Toronto Transhumanist Association and served on the Board of Directors for the Humanity Plus from 2004-06. George was the organizing chair for TransVision 2004, an international conference addressing the scientific, political and social issues surrounding human biotechnology.
George has been interviewed by such publications as The Guardian, the BBC, Radio Free Europe, and Beliefnet. He made an appearance on the CBC’s The Hour and has been profiled in NOW and This Magazine. He has also written for such publications as The Humanist, Canadian Freethinker, Cryonics Magazine and various Thomson & Gale university texts. He is also an accomplished music performer, composer and recording engineer.
“Interview at St Anne’s College Oxford. Conference: Winter Intelligence put on by the Future of Humanity Institute.
Aaron Sloman is a philosopher and researcher on artificial intelligence and cognitive science. He is the author of several papers on philosophy, epistemology and artificial intelligence. He held the Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science at the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, and before that a chair with the same title at the University of Sussex. He is now working with biologist Jackie Chappell on the evolution of intelligence and is Honorary Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science at Birmingham.
He is a Fellow of Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour and European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence. Sussex University awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Science in July 2006.” - Adam Ford
The quote of the day comes from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who suggested to NPR that Obamacare is a “fascist” program. Other CEOs are still insisting the health bill’s too “socialist,” as Mackey has in the past.
We have personal computing, why not personal biotech? That’s the question biologist Ellen Jorgensen and her colleagues asked themselves before opening Genspace, a nonprofit DIYbio lab in Brooklyn devoted to citizen science, where amateurs can go and tinker with biotechnology. Far from being a sinister Frankenstein’s lab (as some imagined it), Genspace offers a long list of fun, creative and practical uses for DIYbio.
Ellen Jorgensen is at the leading edge of the do-it-yourself biotechnology movement, which brings scientific exploration and understanding to the masses. - TED
I find most beautiful not a particular equation or explanation, but the astounding fact that we have beauty and precision in science at all. That exactness comes from using mathematics to measure, check and even predict events. The deepest question is, why does this splendor work?
Positive futurists believe that as thought talking technologies become reality, which some believe could happen during the 2030s and 2040s; our diverse world could evolve into a peaceful global community eliminating most of the ethnic and religious barriers that plague society today.