In 1959 the prominent British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow gave a pivotal lecture before a crowd of his colleagues in Cambridge. The lecture focused on what he saw as a serious divide between the sciences and the humanities. As a researcher and creative writer he had a unique perspective on the problem and its impact on society at large. Now, 50 years after that famous lecture, a wide array of experts are gathered together to discuss whether or not the divide still exists and how it affects contemporary society.
Transcendent Man introduces the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, the renowned futurist who journeys the world offering his vision of a future in which we will merge with our machines, can live forever, and are billions of times more intelligent ... all within the next thirty years.
I noticed that a post of mine was linked via the Wikipedia article on post-scarcity — my post about nanofactory regulation. In it, I proposed a DRM-like system to prevent any old nanofactory from manufacturing things like bombs. Radical and Luddite, I know.
A stone age hunter-gatherer, coming upon a conflict where danger was present, didn’t have time to carefully analyze the situation, look for nuances, or seek points of commonality between combatants. Instead, driven by adrenalin, heart pumping, thoughts racing, pupils dilated—within seconds a choice was made: pick a side and join the fray, or turn and run away.
A mindclone is a software version of your mind. He or she is all of your thoughts, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values, and is experiencing reality from the standpoint of whatever machine their mindware is running on. Mindclones are mindfiles being used and updated by mindware that has been set to be a functionally equivalent replica of one’s mind. A mindclone is your software-based alter ego, doppelganger, or mental twin. If your body died, but you had a mindclone, you would not feel that you personally died, although the body would be missed more sorely than amputees miss their limbs.
Eleven years ago, Random House published my book To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek. With the occasion of the premiere of the Star Trek reboot film and with my mind still bruised from the turgid awfulness of Battlestar Galactica, I decided to post the epilogue of my book, very lightly updated — as an antidote to blasé pseudo-sophistication and a reminder that Prometheus is humanity’s best embodiment. My major hope for the new film is that Uhura does more than answer phones.
We live in a time when more scientists are being trained than ever before, yet scientists find themselves frustrated by inaccurate media coverage, poor science education, public science illiteracy, a resurgence of anti-evolutionism, and challenges to scientific expertise on issues like climate change. On May 9, 2009, visionaries, scientists, authors, and the media will join together in New York to explore the persistence of the “two cultures” gap—a serious divide between science and the humanities—and how it can be overcome.
“If it was possible to become free of negative emotions by a riskless implementation of an electrode—without impairing intelligence and the critical mind—I would be the first patient.” - The Dalai Lama
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, academic epidemiologists at Nottingham and York universities respectively, are authors of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. They explain why relatively unequal societies such as Britain and the United States are more likely to suffer from a range of problems, including low life expectancy, illiteracy, stress, and a high crime rate. Even climate change is less of a challenge for a society with a narrow gap between rich and poor. (MP3) (Hat tip to Thoughtware TV)
A number of Sentient Developments readers have asked what I mean when I refer to non-human persons and the personhood spectrum. It’s a fair question, and to be honest, I have yet to see a satisfying personhood taxonomy with an attendant list of traits that fully circumscribe the personhood continuum. I consider this an incredibly important issue as we move into a ‘transhuman condition’ and as we work to give non-human animals greater moral consideration. If I ever go back to school I think this will be a likely topic for a thesis.
At his Why Evolution is True site, Jerry Coyne hasbeenposting about the accommodation of religious sensibilities in materials and statements by American science organisations such as the National Academy of Sciences, National Center for Science Education, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. In all cases, these (valuable) organisations have considered it necessary to calm the fears of American religionists that science, particularly evolutionary biology, undermines religion.
(Hat tip Genetics and Health) “My Sister’s Keeper” is the story of two sisters, Kate, who suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia, and her sister Anna, who was genetically engineered and conceived to be a genetic match for Kate. In general, the few savior siblings that have been born around the world only provide one or a few bone marrow transplants for their sick older sibling, and they are not genetically engineered, only selected for from among a number of fertilized embryoes. In this film Anna is genetically modified and apparently provides multiple tissues, including cord blood, blood, bone marrow. When her sister needs a kidney she sues her parents for rights to her body. Starring Cameron Diaz as Mom, the amazing Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as the reluctant donor, and Sofia Vassilieva as the sick sister. An adaptation from a novel by Jodi Picoult, “My Sister’s Keeper” gets released to US theaters on 26 June 2009.
Traditionally, April 22—Earth Day—is a day devoted to making green accessible to all. It’s a day when each of us is invited to take small, individual steps toward reducing our carbon footprints, limiting our waste, or restoring the environment. See how easy it is—and how fun—to do your part to save the planet? Whether Earth Day does any good, however, is a subject of some real debate.
As a lover of majestic architecture, I am acutely conflicted, because many of the most amazing building projects on the planet are taking place in Dubai, a location where conditions for workers are uncomfortably close to those of ancient Egypt. Is it possible to foresee a time when a progressive egalitarian society might produce brilliant, stately, inspiring structures?