Evidence for instances of astrophysical ‘fine tuning’ (or ‘coincidences’ ) is thought by some to lend support to the design argument (i.e. the argument that our universe has been designed by some deity). We assess some of the relevant empirical and conceptual issues. We argue that astrophysical fine tuning calls for some explanation, but this explanation need not appeal to the design argument. A clear and strict separation of the issue of anthropic fine tuning on one hand and any form of Eddingtonian numerology and teleology on the other, may help clarify arguably the most significant issue in the philosophy of cosmology.
Cognitive enhancement comes in many diverse forms. In this paper, we survey the current state of the art in cognitive enhancement methods and consider their prospects for the near-term future. We then review some of ethical issues arising from these technologies. We conclude with a discussion of the challenges for public policy and regulation created by present and anticipated methods for cognitive enhancement.
The world’s developed nations, and many of its less developed ones in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, have reached a point where the birthrate is too low to sustain a natural increase in population. Even in the US, which has the highest birthrate among the Western nations, the total fertility rate is marginally too low for full replacement without immigration, though immigration from Mexico and elsewhere will keep the US population increasing for some time to come. In Australasia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South Korea, the fertility rate is now at well under replacement levels.
Extreme human enhancement could result in “posthuman” modes of being. After offering some definitions and conceptual clarification, I argue for two theses. First, some posthuman modes of being would be very worthwhile. Second, it could be very good for human beings to become posthuman.
Soon after the end of the Cold War, U.S. President George H. W. Bush declared that a new era had opened up in which he hoped that his country would become a “kinder and gentler nation.” Fifteen years later his proclamation appears naïve and gushing with idealism, but his optimism was understandable given the times; the Soviet Union had just collapsed with the Eastern Bloc going down with it, and all without a single shot fired from an American gun. The world, it seemed, had been rebooted and started anew.
Technological revolutions are among the most important things that happen to humanity. Ethical assessment in the incipient stages of a potential technological revolution faces several difficulties, including the unpredictability of their long-term impacts, the problematic role of human agency in bringing them about, and the fact that technological revolutions rewrite not only the material conditions of our existence but also reshape culture and even – perhaps - human nature. This essay explores some of these difficulties and the challenges they pose for a rational assessment of the ethical and policy issues associated with anticipated technological revolutions.
Strangely, the end of the Cold War, for whatever reason, ended the global impetus behind the development and enforcement of non-proliferation treaties for nuclear weapons. The current North Korean situation, and soon to be Iranian situation, is an example of inexorable technological globalization. It is also symptomatic of the current nation-state era, in which geographical regions claim political, economic and militaristic sovereignty; each country claims that it has the right to develop nuclear weapons and to protect itself.
On October 4, 1957, the successful launch and orbiting of Sputnik 1 inaugurated the Space Age. Since then, mankind has had a stop and start relationship with outer space. We’ve accomplished a great deal, but it’s been expensive and risky.
Here’s an interesting book from Fred Charles Iklé, an expert in defense and foreign policy, nuclear strategy, Korea and the emerging international order. It’s a 107 page book called Annihilation from Within that warns of potential security issues in a very future-realist sort of way.
In The Evolution of Death Shostak argues that humans are already following an evolutionary trajectory of declining birth rate and growing longevity, and that this can be promoted through tissue engineering to eliminate aging-related death.
Disruptive change triggered by nanotechnology was on the agenda for a recent three-week speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand conducted by Mike Treder, executive director of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN). Between September 2 and September 21, he gave public lectures and held small group discussions on the subject of ‘Disruptive Abundance: Nanotechnology and Human Life’ in twelve cities. “We had big audiences everywhere I went—overflow in some places,” said Treder. “People were very interested to hear about the profound impacts that advanced nanotechnology will bring to society.”
“We’re moving inside” the body with cell phones, said James Hughes, a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and author of Citizen Cyborg. “My opinion is it is realistic. But for at least a couple of decades, I don’t think it’s going to be terribly attractive to open up our heads.”
Longtime mobile industry analyst Bob Egan agrees. “I don’t think the mainstream population is ready to make that leap,” said Egan, with Emerging Technologies in Needham, Mass.
Other well-known experts were quoted, from the Washington Post’s Joel Garreau to Kevin Warwick, but perhaps the most representative voice came from the youngest person interviewed…
Eddie Morrell is 20 and works at one of the two Cingular kiosks in St. Petersburg’s Tyrone Square Mall. He said he sometimes falls asleep with the thing still on his ear.
One of the main conclusions I’ve been coming to in my research on the moral issues surrounding emerging technologies is the danger that they will be used in ways that undermine affective communication between human beings - something on which our ability to bond into societies and show moment-by-moment sympathy for each other depends. Anthropological and neurological studies have increasingly confirmed that human beings have a repertoire of communication by facial expression, voice tone, and body language that is largely cross-cultural, and which surely evolved as we evolved as social animals.
Here’s the good scenario: we have maybe a decade, fifteen years on the outside, before we need start seeing a significant and sustained global reduction of greenhouse gases if we are to avoid absolutely catastrophic environmental results. You know the litany by now: unstoppable sea level rise, famine from loss of agricultural land, countless deaths around the world from the heat and opportunistic diseases, extinctions galore, and on and on. Ten years is enough time to implement significant improvements in our transportation and energy technologies, our consumption patterns, and the design of our communities. We know the pieces that we need to put into place, it’s just a question of getting them assembled in time.
Here’s the not-so-good scenario: you know that decade we thought we had? It’s more like a year or two. Good luck.
Now in its 6th year, Technology Review’s Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT features a mixture of keynote speakers, insightful panels and breakout sessions. The two-day program will bring together world-renowned innovators and business leaders to discuss emerging technologies.
This isn’t about religion, though it was inspired by coming across an article by someone whose motivations for writing about the “sinful” nature of transhumanism seem to be rooted at least nominally in religious convictions. I say “nominally” because the attitudinal undercurrent that drives people to make statements about the sanctity of the contemporary human form (or genome) is present both in devout believers in the deities of organized religion, and in equally devout worshippers of unaltered “nature”. The yuck factor—the gut feelings people use to dismiss notions of human transformation and transhuman / posthuman existence—seems to be more a symptom of discombobulation and future shock more so than the internalized tenets of any particular doctrine.
Boing Boing interviews IEET Fellow Douglas Rushkoff. They talked about the renewed interest in Timothy Leary and Aleister Crowley, the plot of the new comic he’s writing for Vertigo comics, and the book he’s been waiting all his life to write.
For those of you who haven’t seen the Ghost in the Shell movies, what the hell are you doing wasting time here? Get out to your local video store, rent and watch it, and then come back.
Okay, for those of you who have seen the movies, you’ll know that a major issue as presented in both GitS films is the potential problem of mind hacking (or ghost hacking as it’s called). In this future, which is very much in tune with the projections of transhumanists, cyborg minds are seamlessly inter-linked with the Internet. These brains are mostly cybernetic in makeup with some organic components remaining. This is a world in which the computational functionalism of the brain is exploited and made capable of interfacing with other computers and the Web; individuals can access the Internet with their thoughts and without wires. Information is completely on demand in this future world and individuals are techlepathic.
According to a recent study, 9% of U.S. couples who use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)—the procedure used to check for potential abnormalities in offspring—are taking the opportunity to select the gender of their children. These are situations in which the selection of gender was not a medical consideration.
Renowned Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer has penned an OpEd for the Guardian in which he warns of the unintended consequences of genetic enhancement as they would emerge in free market societies. In the article, titled “The Costly Appliance of Science,” Singer expresses his concern that humanity is about to take a bite out of the genetic apple—fruit that has emerged as a result of our ever-developing sciences. Like nuclear physics, he argues, the genetic modification of humans may produce some dangerous risks.
The expectations generated by the too-formal, too-insubstantial rhetoric of democracy of North Atlantic industrial societies are interminably prone to the eruption of education, agitation, and organization for actual popular democratization. So, too, expectations of prosperity arising from unsustainable cheap oil, gunboat diplomacy via the military base archipelago, and technodevelopmental exploitation are likewise interminably prone to the eruption of unassuagable social discontent the moment their beneficiaries are forced by changing circumstances to pay the real price (nonsubsidized costs, nonduressed costs, environmental costs, etc.) of these goods and privileges.