A Connecticut-based company is putting Swedish technology to work with a spherical robot called the Guardbot, designed for surveillance and rescue missions. While it’s not yet commercially available, the rolling robot’s developers say it’s already attracting interest from a wide range of customers.
However, this is eerily like “The Rover” balloon in the 1960s series “The Prisoner”:
After much hard work, the editor of the Journal of Evolution and Technology, Russell Blackford, and IEET Fellow Linda MacDonald Glenn are pleased to announce that the special issue that they have been editing if coming online.
In this episode of the Sentient Developments podcast George Dvorsky discusses primal transhumanism and the seemingly contradictory trend towards ancestral health that’s happening in the futurist community. To that end George addresses the paleo diet, functional fitness, and the importance of sleep. In the second half of the episode he discusses the recent lawsuit launched by PETA in which they accuse SeaWorld of enslaving orca whales. In this suit, PETA claims that the US Constitution backs up their claim as the 13th mention makes no mention of the kinds of persons it’s set up to protect.
The morning-after pill known as Plan B is steeped in controversy again. The Department of Health and Human Services has taken the rare step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration and its science advisors and will not allow the pill to be sold over the counter in drugstores unless a woman can prove she is older than 17.
The new (December 2011/January 2012) issue of Free Inquiry features a set of articles on the prospects of human enhancement, and how these should be viewed by secular people. The positions range across the spectrum from enthusiastic to very resistant, and feature contributions by IEET’s Russell Blackford and James Hughes.
Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group: Professor Medina presents material from Cybernetic Revolutionaries, her book-in-progress that tells the history of Chile’s Project Cybersyn. She links this historical case study to present day issues in e-governance, participatory design, and computer surveillance.
Dr. J. chats with theologian Brent Waters, author of This Mortal Flesh: Incarnation and Bioethics and From Human to Posthuman: Christian Theology and Technology in a Postmodern World. Professor Waters teaches Christian Social Ethics at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois. They discuss the importance of the body for Christianity, the ethics of reproductive choice and life extension, and whether human beings are supposed to have a creative role in nature.
(by Robert Bradbury, IEET Fellow Milan Cirkovic, and IEET Board Chair George Dvorsky) We critically assess the prevailing currents in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), embodied in the notion of radio-searches for intentional artificial signals as envisioned by pioneers such as Frank Drake, Philip Morrison, Michael
Papagiannis and others. In particular, we emphasize (1) the necessity of integrating SETI into a wider astrobiological and future studies context, (2) the relevance of and lessons to be learnt from the anti-SETI arguments, in particular Fermi’s paradox, and (3) a need for complementary approach which we dub the Dysonian SETI. It is meaningfully derived from the inventive and visionary ideas of Freeman J. Dyson and his imaginative precursors, like Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, Olaf Stapledon, Nikola Tesla or John B. S. Haldane, who suggested macro-engineering projects as the focal points in the context of extrapolations about the future of humanity and, by analogy, other intelligent species. We consider practical ramifications of the Dysonian SETI and indicate some of the promising directions for future work.
Buddhist psychology and metaphysics focus on the emergence of selves, their drives, and their potential for developing wisdom and compassion. Buddhism has already entered into a wide ranging dialogue with cognitive science, and can also inform and be informed by efforts to create self-aware machine minds. Buddhism suggests that there are a number of prerequisites for the development of humanlike intelligence in machines. These include embodiment, sensory interaction with the environment, preferences and aversions. The Buddhist view of the advantages of different kinds of minds and embodiments suggests an ethical obligation not to create machine minds which are trapped in particular emotional states or cognitive loops. Rather machine minds should be created with the capacity to dynamically evolve in compassion and wisdom. Compassion must start with empathetic feelings and a theory of mind, but for Buddhism also requires cultivation of equanimity and ethical wisdom. Buddhism suggests the developmental cultivation of ethics from rule-based to virtue-oriented to utilitarian. Finally thoughts are offered on what enlightenment might mean for a machine mind.
Paul Root Wolpe, senior bioethicist at NASA and a pioneer in the field of neuroethics, recently spoke to BigThink about his concerns about a neuroenhanced future:
Peering into his children’s and grandchildren’s future, he sees an America that rewards competitiveness and productivity over relationship-building, and suspects that future generations will face intense pressure to enhance their minds and bodies in unhealthy ways.
There’s nothing new, Wolpe says, about humans chemically altering their brains:
Paul Root Wolpe: It’s not whether. We always have done it; we always will do it. Human Beings have been manipulating their brains in that manner since they first fermented grapes or discovered hallucinogenic mushrooms, or whatever was the very first time people realized that they could ingest something and change their brain’s functioning.
But now that we can do it better, more powerfully, more accurately and with fewer side effects, the temptation to do it dramatically and often will increase. So the question now becomes, what are the proper limits? What is the proper nature of that change?
Up until now, it’s been a bit of a moot question because the drugs that we had had side effects that made them undesirable. So if you take amphetamines to try to increase your attention, you’re going to have jitters, sleep disturbances and other things like that. Now you have something like Modafinil, a much more benign drug that can, in many people, enhance attention without any of those systemic side effects. And now we really have to begin to ask ourselves some interesting questions.
They did some studies, for example, with pilots. Gave some of them, not Modafinil, but a similar type drug and some they didn’t and then they threw emergencies at them in flight simulators. And what they discovered is that the pilots that were on attention enhancing drugs responded faster and more accurately to those emergencies.
So now we’re not just talking about, should I take it when I want to pay attention, maybe we should make people take it who have – surgeons and pilots and other people – who have other people’s lives in their hands. Maybe my surgeon on Modafinil will be much more able to focus on what he’s doing than my surgeon off of Modafinil.
What’s the Significance?
When faced with these complex ethical questions, it is tempting to take sides either for or against biotechnology. Utopian proponents will argue that biotech will end human suffering. Detractors will label it “unnatural” (many of them in blog posts on the equally unnatural internet).
But the reality, as always, is somewhere in the middle.
There is an unbelievable essay written - in apparent sincerity - by my colleague John C. Wright (a pretty good author, by the way), in which he asserts that the long darkness called feudalism was admirable, and that - by dismal contrast - we now live in an age that is benighted by crudely materialistic modernity and a shabby shallowness of the soul.
So, apparently there’s an Adderall drought going on the United States. Adderall is a prescription med that is used by people suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. It’s also being increasingly used as an off-label cognitive enhancer and for recreational purposes (which I’ll get to in just a little bit).
“As an artist, I can appreciate precedent representation and objecthood crises at the cite and sight of artistic collage and assemblage. As a transhumanist, however, I’m cognizant that artistic collage and assemblage will look like mere speed bumps when compared to the transubstrationality to be encountered near a singularity spike.”
Dr. J. chats with Christian Miller, Professor of Philosophy and Director of The Character Project at Wake Forest University. They discuss the idea of virtue and moral character and its relationship to moral philosophy, personality theory, religion and neuroscience. Part 2 of 2. Also Dr. J. finishes his chat with Ted Chiang about his Hugo award winning novella “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” and the state of science fiction. (Part 2 of 2)
Dr. J. chats with Christian Miller, Professor of Philosophy and Director of The Character Project at Wake Forest University. They discuss the idea of virtue and moral character and its relationship to moral philosophy, personality theory, religion and neuroscience. Part 1 of 2.
Human morality is older than our current religions, and may go back to tendencies observable in other mammals. In a bottom-up view of morality, this talk is one man’s road to discovering an array of positive tendencies in animals at a time when competition and aggression were the only themes.
Randy Sarafan shows us how to build robots to serve the revolution:
Learning from the lessons of the 1%, I set forth to outsource our occupy-related labor to a robotic workforce. Robots obviously have many advantages over their human counterparts. For instance, robots never get tired, they don’t get cold, they don’t sleep, nor eat, don’t require tents, and when armed insurrection becomes necessary, robots are much more morally ambivalent. Additionally, we had a discussion with an unnamed member of the San Francisco police force and they confided in us that the police currently do not have any plan for dealing with robotic occupiers.
For all of those reasons and more, I present to you Occu(pi) Bot; the first in a promising line of tireless, unstoppable, robotic class warriors.
Learn how to make your own!