The express aim of enhancement technologies is to overcome our biological limitations: cognitive, emotional and healthspan-related. But what is almost always tacit in discussions of human enhancement is the issue of what exactly constitutes a biological limitation.
I was asked the question, “What can we expect to see from science in the next decade?” My answer comes from the perspective of a social scientist, as I research social problems from the influence of cognitive neuroscience.
Say that I knew that medicine had advanced to the point where I could reasonably expect to live to be 350 years old, with the first two decades, of course, going to maturation, and the last two decades resembling our current aging process. What would I do with all of that time?
British activists have launched a major campaign to push Gordon Brown’s government into adopting a “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions—a tiny tax that could raise hundreds of billions for public services and for tackling poverty and climate change. The campaigners unveiled a brilliant little sketch featuring British actor Bill Nighy as a squirming banker.
In this panel discussion moderated by Robert Kane Pappas, director of To Age or Not to Age, distinguished panelists debate the future of anti-aging research. Panelists include: Dr. Robert Butler, Gerontologist, Psychiatrist & Pulitzer-Prize Winner, President and CEO of the International Longevity Center; Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Biomedical Gerontologist, Chief Science Officer, SENS Foundation; and Dr. Leonard P. Guarente, Novartis Professor of Biology, MIT, Director, Paul F. Glenn Lab for Science of Aging.
Dr. J. chats with Dr. Stephen Eric Bronner, professor of political science at Rutgers University and author of Reclaiming the Enlightenment: Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement. Part 2 of 2. (Part 1)
Dr. J. chats with Andrew Fenton who is a part of the Novel Tech Ethics Group at Dalhousie University and the author of “Buddhism and Neuroethics: The Ethics of Pharmaceutical Cognitive Enhancement.” Part 2 of 2. (Part 1)
Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin Madison
On March 27, 2009 the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin Madison held a symposium titled “What is Human?” devoted to “exploring the limits and excesses of the human across the division of the humanities and the sciences.” These are some of the talks from that seminar.
Cary Wolfe, Professor of English, Rice University
“Introducing Posthumanism Again” MP3
Richard Davidson, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Change Your Brain by Transforming Your Mind” MP3
Jay Martin and Walt Schalick
“Engineering the Human Body” MP3
Alastair Hunt, Jon McKenzie, Stephanie Youngblood
“The Futures and the Pasts of the Posthuman” MP3
Lewis R. Gordon, Professor of Philosophy, Temple University
“Theorizing the Human: A Pedagogical Imperative of a Philosophical Anthropology” MP3
The old cliché that the “future is not written” is an allusion to free will and the indeterminate nature of the self. Invoking hope and courage, the implicit corollary is “for we are in the process of writing it.” We may yet, it seems, create progress in spite of the looming obstacles before us.
The schism over global climate change (GCC) has become an intellectual chasm, across which everyone perceives the other side as Koolaid-drinkers. Although I have mixed views of my own about the science of GCC, and have closely grilled a number of colleagues who are front-line atmospheric scientists (some at JPL), I’m afraid all the anecdotes and politics-drenched "questions" flying about right now aren’t shedding light. They are, in fact, quite beside the point. That is because science itself is the main issue: its relevance and utility as a decision-making tool.
Take a long view of humanity. See the centuries of quotidian drudgery between periods of roiling tumult, flashes of genius amidst endless toil, billions upon billions who barely live and silently die. Ask how we are not the same.
The Enlightenment thinkers proposed that all men should be accorded the Rights of Man. Eventually this assertion of moral universalism would spread to spark campaigns for the legal equality for women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and the disabled. Some transhumanists have similarly asserted that a transhuman democracy can ensure the legal equality of ur-human and posthuman citizens, and promote the rights of all persons regardless of species. But respect for diversity and self-determination, an awareness that ethical views are historically situated and not absolute, and the belief that future generations will inevitably develop a new ethics make other transhumanists hostile to the idea of any effort to impose Enlightenment values on other societies, posthumans, or animals. We need to renew our commitment to a subtler, limited form of moral universalism, and to the global political institutions it requires.
Dr. J. chats with Arika Okrent, author of In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers and the Mad Dreamers who tried to Build a Perfect Language. Dr. Okrent holds a doctorate in linguisitics and cognitive neuroscience from the University of Chicago. MP3
The current discussion on transhumanism concerns human use of NBIC1 technologies and sciences to enhance human biology and to radically extend human life. I address this concern by bringing arts/sciences and design into the discussion. Artists and designers have been altering the human form-perceptually, conceptually and in actuality-from existing states to envisioned, preferred states. The perception of an ideal human is evident in the construction of statuesque sculptures. The conception of an enhanced human is evident in imagined mechanism in providing electronic senses and robotic extensions. The central issue now is that both the opponent and the advocate of transhumanism realize that the actuality of altering the human form is practicable, that duplicating the mind is probable, and that extending life is feasible.
What properties of consciousness and mind will remain the same in a posthuman world? Will enhanced minds look at themselves and reality like we do? What can we learn from cognitive science and consciousness studies to help answer these questions? What are some ethical consequences of enhancing the brain/mind?