Reality is big. So our optimism must be confined to sentient beings in our forward light-cone. But I tentatively predict that the last experience below “hedonic zero” will be a precisely dateable event several hundred years hence. Here are five grounds for cautious optimism:
The practice of ritual killing  and human sacrifice  continues to take place in several African countries in contravention of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other human rights instruments. In this 21st century, human beings are still being hunted down, mutilated, murdered or sacrificed for ritual purposes across the region. Several cases of kidnapping and disappearance of persons  are traced to the vicious schemes and activities of ritualists. In most cases, those targeted for ritual sacrifice are vulnerable members of the population — the poor, women, children, the aged and people with disabilities.
We recently learned that a friend of the IEET, Dominique Mainon, lost her battle with cancer several weeks ago. In her memory we repost this interview Dominique, screenwriter, filmmaker and author of, among others, Cinema of Obsession: Erotic Fixation and Love Gone Wrong in the Movies, Femme Fatale: Cinema’s Most Unforgettable Lethal Ladies, and The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women On-Screen. (First broadcast December 2009)
Interview with Professor Rod Flower FRS, chair of the Royal Society’s new report. Scientists hopeful our understanding of the human brain will improve the lives and performance of the UK’s armed forces. A report published 7 February by the Royal Society aims to debunk some common myths surrounding how militaries might use this type of research.
A space-based solar power (SSP) system capable of meeting the energy needs of millions of people could be “deployed within a decade using technologies that are today in the laboratory,” says John C. Mankins, a former manager of the Advanced Concepts Studies Office of Space Flight for NASA and widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on space-based solar power.
Existence is the most fundamental thing which is taken for granted. When we actually think about it, we all find it pretty mysterious, but I wonder if you realize just how mysterious it really is. Here’s a few things to consider.
The first is Occam’s Razor. A simple logic tool, right?
Zombies are a strange source of ethical inspiration, but as I mentioned to io9′s Lauren Davis, if academic ethicists get to spend all day talking about trolleys, I see no reason we can’t banter about the ethics of the undead.
In an earlier political posting I pointed out that the top federal income tax rate - for earned income - has seldom been lower than it is right now.. and the rate that Mitt Romney pays on dividends is half of that. Federal taxes, in general, are at one of the lowest points since 1912… suggesting that our current national argument about taxes ought to at least feature commensurately lower rates of anger.
Last month we asked “Is it ethical for an advanced military to use drones or robots to attack enemy soldiers?” A third of you want military drones and robots banned, and a quarter believed they were unproblematic. But the center of opinion was that they should be under human control or used by both sides.
Nikolai Fedorov - the Russian proto-transhumanist philosopher — believed that the “Common Task” of humanity was to technologically conquer death. This means… Immortality for those who are presently living… right? No, think bigger, his vision was immensely more ambitious. Federov believed that the evil horror of death would not be fully conquered until everyone who had ever died… was brought back to Life.
Former Libyan rebels are now chanting for Syrians to follow their revolutionary path. Hundreds of mercenaries, some of whom are said to be former terrorists, are ready to pick up arms again to help overthrow President Assad.
The Syrian regime of Bashir Assad is the last remaining of the secular despots of the Arab world after the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The rest of the Arab world is in the hands of “enlightened” kings/sheiks/sultans that somehow have better weathered the “Arab Spring” or is in the process of becoming democratic (Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria).
The third criterion of life, Transcendence, requires a potential life form to demonstrate that it can extend itself beyond its information processing capability to serve the purpose of life. A fair test for Transcendence is compliance with the Second and Third Principles of Geoethics – the Principles of Equilibria and Assurance. (Part 4 of Hybriduality and Geoethics)
Lauren Davis reopens the debate started by Zach Zorich at Archeology and continued by yours truly over whether or not we should clone a Neanderthal. She does a nice job compiling a list of yays and nays, including this gem I hadn’t much considered:
One of the most common – and most serious – weaknesses of codes of ethics, and indeed, most ethical theories, is that they don’t prioritize values. They’re fine for many of the simpler ethical questions, but when goods and interests conflict, when virtues and rights collide, they don’t provide a way to determine which interest, which right, is stronger. For example, it’s all very nice to say that both customers and shareholders are valued, but which is valued more?
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