[Warning: contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode Islanded in A Stream of Stars] In some instances, one should cling to hope and keep fighting even when that hope seems lost. At other times, it is necessary to accept defeat and loss, or abandon a goal towards which substantial resources have been dedicated. Distinguishing between these two situations is the challenging, yet crucial element.
I’m reading the blog of Wesley Smith, a bioethicist with the Discovery Institute. He mentions transhumanism frequently: at least 212 posts. Unlike Charles Stross, he does seem to believe that the 21st century could bring radical changes with the manipulation of human beings and the creation of new human-like life-forms, including AGIs — he just doesn’t think we should go down that route.
My intent, from this point forward, is to stop talking about the “long-term.” No more long-term problems, long-term solutions, long-term changes. No more long-term perspectives. In its place, I’m going to start talking about “multigenerational” issues. Multigenerational problems, solutions, changes. Multigenerational perspectives.
If personhood ever becomes a basis for law, we will develop a set of rights structures for the stage between birth and personhood. Until then, we must understand personhood as a scale comprised of several traits. This scale is still being developed, but, as a concept, shows it’s usefulness over the reductionist “human species” as a category for rights. Just as our DNA doesn’t determine our identity and personality, neither should it determine our rights.
[Warning: Contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode Someone to Watch Over Me] How should systems of punishment differ when indefinite lifespans are achieved, or when there are many copies of an individual? Does capital punishment become meaningless when you can download to a new body, or does it become an even harsher punishment if it is instead instituted more thoroughly as the deletion of all instances of an individual?
You might remember the story of old John Henry. He built rail lines, and could work harder and faster than any man alive. When the company brought in a steam-driven rail driving machine, though, they announced that they were going to fire all of the human rail workers. John Henry stepped up and challenged that machine.
While we’re discussing the ludicrous concept of “defamation of religion”, I’m wondering why no one talks about defamation of science. Maybe we could try to ban Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and all those other books, movies, TV shows, etc., that present stereotyped images of irresponsible, hubristic scientists.
The debate over the personhood and the legal/moral status of embryos (as well as other entities) continues: Even though the ‘personhood for embryos’ amendment in Colorado was resoundingly defeated, North Dakota is next in line to attempt to create a law that would give full moral and legal status to embryos.
The Onion team debate whether video games like Fallout 3 are teaching our children the skills they’ll need, like gathering dew from human skulls, when their world eventually turns into a brutal hellscape.
IEET Fellow Natasha Vita-More will be presenting at the “Stand-up for Human Rights” conference and event in Pozan, Poland. Her campaign, “Human Rights for Human Enhancement” reflects the right to enhance and the right not to be coerced to enhance. STAND-UP is the collaborative effort of One World Association and Poznan Academy of Fine Arts which focuses on human rights issue by using film, narrative, interactive media, and digital arts as a medium.
In a perfectly rational world, consisting solely of rational agents, strategies for dealing with the diverse health risks facing populations would be governed by the maxims of expected utility theory. But we do not live in a rational world, and acknowledging this empirical fact is important as it can help us bridge the gap between “where we are” and the more fair and humane state of affairs that rational decision making would create. Prospect theory reveals that preferences are in fact dependent on whether particular outcomes of a choice are regarded as “a loss” or “a gain”, relative to a reference point. And this has significant implications concerning how we ought to frame ageing and the imperative to retard human ageing. More specifically, prospect theory reveals the importance of recognising the ultimate, rather than just proximate, causes of disease. Doing so will help ensure that the valuation of age retardation is more rational as greater attention will be placed on the prevention of losses (e.g. risk of cancer, heart disease, etc.) than on the “enhanced” benefits that might be construed as exceeding a person’s “aspiration level for survival”.«
[Warning: Contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode Deadlock ] How would the human relationships we form evolve if instead of decades we had thousands of years to nurture them? Would we form deeper connections, strengthened by shared experiences we cannot yet imagine? Would we find find new ways of expressing love for one another, linked mind-to-mind with the sharing of emotions? Perhaps we would be able to work out the conflicts in relationships, and improve ourselves not only on the individual level but as a synergistic community. On the other hand, we could seek to preserve our relationships in their present form with all their eccentricities and flaws, much as Ellen and the Final Five Cylons seem to have done.
Even if we stop all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the world is still in for a certain amount of global warming—which Jamais Cascio believes is reason enough to take a serious look at geoengineering. “If you find yourself in a hole, the first step is to stop digging,” he says. “But stopping digging isn’t going to get you out of your hole.”
Something that’s always bothered me about traditional prostheses is the constant attempt to mimic normal human morphology. Artificial legs are supposed to look like real legs and artificial arms are supposed to look like real arms, right?
What if they gave a war and nobody came? That was a popular slogan for peace demonstrators of the Vietnam era (including me). It might be repeated, with a slight revision, at some point during this century: What if they gave a robot war and nobody came?
[Warning: Contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode No Exit] One of the most important issues regarding human enhancement is determining what novel traits we should seek to acquire, as well as which traits should be preserved, emphasized, limited, or discarded. It is particularly difficult when it comes to the many traits that exist along a continuum, for while if we eliminated our strong ingroup versus outgroup tendencies it would be refreshing to see the end of racism and xenophobia, at the same time we would lose some of the bonds that contribute to family closeness. That does not mean, however, that we should not attempt to eliminate our most detestable characteristics, and where they exist in a continuum with an admirable trait, we should carefully limit them along that continuum.
Anti-liberal actors in the international arena, such as the Muslim states of the Middle East, are pursuing a path of attempting to suppress what they call “defamation of religion”. Their campaign is achieving some success, and I believe we must take it very seriously.
The Wall Street Journal published an article last week on the topic of human trait selection—a pending reproductive procedure that’s more commonly (and pejoratively) referred to as designer babies. In the article, “A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles—Hold the Colic”, writer Gautam Naik describes those laboratory techniques that screen for diseases in embryos and how those techniques will soon be offered to prospective parents.
Between the approach of Valentine’s Day and recent discussions in a forum where a lot of stale sociobiological doctrines about women were put forward, I thought I’d put this up… planting a flag, as it were.
We live on a small island. We have not yet ventured much beyond our immediate locale on this small island; even our own inconspicuous location still holds great mysteries for us. It seems that we find ourselves near the mountain peak on our island, but even that is uncertain. Only recently we have discovered that there are other islands besides our home scattered in a vast (possibly infinite) ocean. And the ocean is dead. It is not just devoid of fishes, algae or anything similar – it is empty of any conceivable form of life, it epitomizes the absence of life itself. But recently we have made our first attempt at mapping our surroundings and, in particular, sketching the outline of the ocean shores. In this, some of us bear similarities to the great adventurers of the European Age of Exploration in XV and XVI centuries; only in this case the explorers are not sea-captains and conquistadors, but theoretical physicists, cosmologists and philosophers.