Dr. J. chats with W. Brian Arthur about his book The Nature of Technology, which argues that technologies have a natural history - are composed of prior technologies - and are subject to natural selection. (MP3)
District 9 is one of those films that, when you examine it in pieces, it doesn’t seem that amazing. If you were to ask me about any specific piece of the film: the action, the cinematography, the effects, the acting, the writing, etc. I would say that it might fall in the “good” or “pretty good” category. As a whole, however, the film manages to constantly combine those “good” elements into great scenes and chains so many great scenes together that a truly wonderful and unique story results.
We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems.
One of my first impressions after reading Bill Bainbridge’s 1981 essay “Religions for a Galactic Civilization” was that it was dated (well, it was written 26 years ago). I wrote: “If Bill were to write the same article today, he would probably mention NBIC technologies (nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences) besides space travel and colonization. I hope he would give less space to Scientology, and I am sure he would discuss the works of transhumanist thinkers in great detail. I think the first sentence quoted below could be written, today, as “We need a new transhumanist social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to dominant sectors of the society””. I asked Bill to write a revised and updated version of the paper, to be published (translated into Italian) in the print journal Divenire of the Italian Transhumanist Association and then discussed at the TransVision 2010 conference. A first draft of the revised and updated version has just been posted to the IEET blog.
Set in a future world where humans can control other humans in massively multiplayer online gaming environments, a star player from a game called “Slayers” looks to regain his independence while taking down the game’s mastermind.
Progress in spaceflight technology has halted at a level that is insufficient for colonization of the solar system, let alone for voyages to the stars. That grim fact was not obvious to me when I wrote the original version of this essay thirty years ago (Bainbridge 1982), but it is apparent now.
The healthcare debate has gotten so weird, I think it’s time someone (I guess me) says what’s actually going on. I do not presume to have the answers to all of these problems (well, actually I think I have most of it figured out) but all I mean to do is share what appears to be happening. It is bizarre. Let’s start simple.
Surrogates explores a world where humans can clone their minds into androids that they send out to do work for them. Based on a graphic novel series, and very similar in premise to David Brin’s Kiln People.
So what’s the appropriate progressive response to the recent under-the-radar attempts from conservatives to ban the creation of animal-human hybrids? “Strategically,” suggests SP Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Moreno, “the answer is caricature. Because the silliness is outrageous.”
In 2005, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced the “Human Chimera Prohibition Act of 2005.” The bill never left committee, but White House speechwriters inserted a clause into President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union speech calling for legislation that banned the creation of “human-animal hybrids“—a change of terms Moreno suggested at the time might have been a result of scientific confusion the part of the president’s advisers.
A chimera is an animal carrying cells that are genetically distinct from those of the host. Thousands of model animals used for important medical research on debilitating human diseases fall into this biological definition. But so do women who’ve ever been pregnant, as they continue to carry some fetal cells in their body afterward. Heart patients who have had a faulty heart valve replaced with one transplanted from a pig are also technically chimeras. A hybrid, on the other hand, is a special kind of chimera, the result of inter-species genetic mixing in reproductive cells, and carries traits from the two different species. Mules, for instance, are the sterile product of a male donkey and a female horse. The mythological minotaur from the isle of Crete would also presumably fit this definition.
This year, Brownback has apparently brushed up on the difference and introduced the “Human-Animal Chimera Prohibition Act.” But legislators in Louisiana rushed ahead, and on July 13 Governor Bobby Jindal (R) signed a bill that outlaws the creation human-animal hybrids in his state. One wonders if residents would agree that the threat of monsters is of more concern than continued recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana scientists take notice: the law spells out punishments that can include up to 10 years of hard labor.
Moreno sat down with CAP colleague John Neurohr to talk about this bizarre strategy that weaves together pieces of arguments about abortion, stem cell research, and even the Terri Schiavo case. “There is a systematic attempt to create a narrative around conservatives as the protectors of the species,” says Moreno. The historical irony being that they’ve tried repeatedly to pin that eugenic label on progressives.
George Dvorsky’s July IEET article “The End of Science My Ass” counters the idea put forth in several publications that breakthroughs in basic science are hitting the wall. I would like to elaborate on two major points that George made. First, based on only a partial snapshot of the most important breakthroughs included in Dvorsky’s list, he concludes the rate of scientific breakthroughs is slowing down. This needs to be understood in the context of cycles in Kuhnian revolutions. Second, the main argument both Horgan and Masood were setting out to support is that ultimately revolutions in science, not scientific breakthroughs are reaching their limits.
Humans have not gone unnoticed on this planet. We’ve left our mark with technology, agriculture, architecture, and a growing carbon footprint. But where is this trajectory headed? And, sure, humans will be around in a century, but – with bionic limbs and silicon neurons – would we recognize them? (MP3)
* James Lovelock – Independent scientist and author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia
* Cary Fowler – Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust
* Russell Blackford – Philosopher, writer, and editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Evolution and Technology.”
This is an interview with Marko A. Rodriguez, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Besides doing basic research on applied mathematics and computer science, he is doing work on computational eudaemonics — the use of computer algorithms to increase happiness by helping us make better decisions, even suggesting new options.
Before I left for an Alpine vacation of high altitude hiking, fresh air, and peace, I was pondering my response to Randall Mayes puzzlingly entitled: “In Defense of Patenting DNA: A Pragmatic Libertarian Perspective” published in Ethical Technology on July 26. In the meantime, a much more scathing and less meaty attack on my book Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes was published as a “book review” (more on this in a moment) which stoops to the same level as numerous recent bloggers who, so moved by the danger of my arguments to their cause, have attempted to attack me, and thus misses the point of most of my argument. I am glad I waited to respond to Mr. Mayes, who at least raises his own policy arguments and responds to a number of my policy arguments.
In which Dr. J. issues a formal concession to the right-wing-nuts that progressives have removed mandatory euthanasia, nationalizing hospitals, etc. from reform proposals. Also the cost-effectiveness of anti-aging therapies, and life happiness and wisdom increase with age. (MP3)
Mike Treder reports in from Pittsburgh PA on NetRoots Nation, an annual gathering of the progressive blogging community. Moneyshot Cosmonauts send up the Octomom with a parody of “Poker Face.” The broken part of psychopaths’ brain may be located. Jamais Cascio’s fantastic “Get Smarter”. (MP3)
The relevance of nearly all biogerontology research to combating aging is restricted to the potential for slowing down the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage that eventually leads to age-related ill-health. Meanwhile, regenerative medicine has been progressing rapidly and is nearing clinical applicability to a wide range of specific conditions. My view is that we are approaching the point where regenerative medicine can be used against aging. This would entail not retarding but actually reversing the accumulation of damage. If successful, this would obviously be a far more valuable technology than mere slowing of aging. However, in order to be successful it must be comprehensive, and some aspects of aging may seem impossible to address in this way. In fact, however, it seems that all types of molecular and cellular damage which contribute to age-related ill-health are realistic targets of regenerative interventions.