I’ve been writing about geoengineering since 2005, and have even published a short book on the subject (Hacking the Earth), looking primarily at the ethics and politics of the issue. The political aspects are, in my view, the most important, yet they’ve received little attention.
Below is a transcription of the talk I gave last year at the IEET’s symposium on Building a Resilient Civilization. The title of my presentation was: “Democracy in danger: Catastrophic threats and the rise of political extremism.”
Academics at Britain’s first conference on the psychology of climate change argued that the greatest obstacles to action are not technical, economic or political—they are the denial strategies that we adopt to protect ourselves from unwelcome information.
Abstract: This paper examines how ‘surveillance medicine’ (Armstrong 1995) has expanded the realm of the medical gaze via its infiltration of cyberspace, where specific features of healthism are now present. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of biopower, we examine how digital health resources offer new ways through which to discipline individuals and regulate populations. The emergence of health regulation within and through cyberspace takes place in a context wherein the relationship between the body and technology is rendered more complex. Departing from early literature on cyberspace, which claimed that the body was absent in virtual worlds, we articulate a medicalized cyberspace within which the virtual and corporeal are enmeshed.
(With Jeanann Boyce) Legal institutions must try to avoid getting blinded by the hype and inappropriately sweeping in—and perhaps over-regulating—of both the novel and the mundane applications of this still relatively young technology. As nanotechnology progresses, and both humans and nonhumans receive therapeutic benefits and enhancements, it will be up to the policy makers, courts, and legal profession to delineate societal guidelines for regulation and privacy, as well as to determine individual culpability and responsibility.
“One cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance.”
Hollywood horror flicks have captivated us with alien blobs, but the slime slithering on our own planet is as beguiling. From microscopic machines to life on ocean floors, new research reveals how essential slime is to life on Earth, and possibly other worlds. Plus, will nano-built slime—aka Gray Goo—threaten us in the future?
Athlete, actor and activist Aimee Mullins talks about her prosthetic legs—she’s got a dozen amazing pairs—and the super-powers they grant her: speed, beauty, an extra 6 inches of height ... Quite simply, she redefines what the body can be. TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes.
Because I’m not reflexively opposed to geoengineering research, and because I increasingly suspect that some level of albedo-management geoengineering will be necessary simply due to climate disruption happening faster than previously expected, some people tend to assume that I’m a geoengineering advocate. I’m not—but as I’ve noted before, I do believe that it would be less disastrous than climate-driven depopulation. Nonetheless, geoengineering is all-but-certain to have undesirable consequences, both politically (see next post) and environmentally.
[Warning: contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode Daybreak, Part 1] When forced to choose between who should live and who should die, how should one take into account the ages and potentials of the people involved?
Though some areas of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), such as stem cells and amyloid immunotherapy, are sufficiently mainstream not to need Methuselah Foundation funding, most are still relative backwaters that rely on the MF to progress. IEET fellow gives an overview of the research projects that the MF is now funding, their significance to SENS, and their potential to lead to accelerated progress towards the defeat of aging in 2009 and beyond.
How much can we learn from science fiction authors? From their novels and short stories, sometimes a lot and sometimes a little, depending mostly on how deeply they think and how well they write. But what about from their non-fiction works?
The folks at the Onion do to naive techno-boosterism what Jon Stewart has been doing to naive market fluffers this week, in this “news” segment on the benefits to the economy of an industrial army of giant crabs.
Apocalyptic thinking is frequently found in certain future scenarios, especially when those scenarios are created by people concerned with military conflict, climate change, artificial intelligence, disease outbreaks, or other scary possibilities.
William P. Cheshire, Jr., MD gave this very interesting talk to the usual bioconservative folks at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity: “Will the Next Great Awakening Begin with Caffeine? Cognitive Enhancing Drugs & the Church.” (MP3)
(Chris Phoenix, co-founder and Director of Research at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, has recently returned from a sabbatical. ) Well, that’s a nice welcome-back-to-work for you. Two days into my new/old job, and I hear that there’s a nano video going viral. It’s hosted, no surprise, by none other than Wired, which also published Bill Joy’s anti-nano article in 2000. Nanotechnologists, take note: Wired wants to destroy your funding.
Most of us believe—or fear—that if you live long enough, your mind starts to go. But only recently have neurologists begun to understand how memory loss works.
Much of this knowledge has emerged while studying Alzheimer’s Disease, leading some researchers to wonder whether they should also be working on treatments for what is basically ‘normal aging’ and not just a condition that’s more clearly a ‘disease’.
WNYC Radio’s Fred Mogul listened in on a recent debate among researchers about where such lines should be drawn.
(Hat tip to Boing Boing) Director Ransom Riggs used motion capture for the animation. Dramatizes the fanciful “gray goo” scenario, in which a hapless would-be evil genius unleashes a plague of nanorobots to devour the earth.
In my experience, the most common solution given to the Fermi Paradox is the Rare Earth hypothesis—the idea that life in the Galaxy is exceptionally rare and that planets like ours are freakishly uncommon. For many, this conveniently explains why we haven’t been visited by little green men. Or more accurately, extraterrestrial machine intelligences.