How critical are you of transhumanist assumptions? Are you convinced that uploading human personalities to computers is possible? Do you believe that some people currently preserved cryonically will be successfully revived? Is a technological singularity inevitable?
We have had more ability to increase our physical functionality in the last 25 years than in the last 2500 years combined. What’s coming next, and how do we handle the complicated ethical questions that arise? Two rabbis engage in an interesting conversation with IEET Managing Director Mike Treder.
2006, Trailer. (NYU).
Director/Writer/Editor: Jonathan Sanden
Producers: Jonathan Sanden and Alexis Ward
Director of Photography: Chris J. Lytwyn
Cast: Gregory Waller, Austen Cooke, Clare Stevenson, Gene Morra, Ralph DeMatthews.
From Ponce de Leon to Dorian Gray and beyond, the quest to halt aging has been one of the key sources of legend and imaginative literature. “I first became interested in the subject,” says filmmaker Jonathan Sanden, “because it’s such a fundamental human yearning that has been explored throughout all art, literature, and religion: the fear of death and the desire to live forever.” In Sanden’s film Extropy, a geneticist whose own father is succumbing to Alzheimer’s believes he had discovered a way to stop the aging process. He turns to an eccentric businessman to fund his endeavor, but with time running out for his father, begins testing his discovery on himself.
Says Sanden of his film, “I wanted to explore the idea of viewing aging as a disease (which some people do as part of a movement known as transhumanism). Biological aging is partly the result of wear and tear, but it is still controlled by a precise genetic mechanism (or mechanisms) which means that there might be a way to influence it or even control it.”
In particular, says Sanden, telomeres, the “sections of DNA on the ends of each chromosome” may “be one of the core causes of the aging process, and research is being conducted today to explore the regenerative implications of this.” In the course of his research for the film, Sanden met with a Yale geneticist “who is attempting to use telomerase-based gene therapy to regenerate damaged tissue.”
Sanden was as influenced by current debates on the limits of science as much as he was by contemporary genetic research. “What will be the limit of our ability to control our own biology with technology - if there is any?” he asks, “How are we going to morally and ethically evaluate this limit, and then how do we enforce those decisions?” And certainly the intersection of advances and ethics is represented by another subject of the film, the 1990s biotech boom with the merger of science and industry.
Before becoming a filmmaker, the Connecticut-born Sanden was pursuing the field of genetics. A number of short films made as undergraduate at New York University led him to graduate work in film at the school. Extropy, his senior thesis, “brought me back to the world of genetics. At a time when a lot of popular culture seems so trite,” says the filmmaker, “and amazing discoveries in technology, medicine, and genetics that are changing the world seem to be overlooked or ignored by the popular culture and media, I was moved to make a film that embraced realistic scientific material.”
We are 37th! We are 37th! No, this is not the cheer to be heard this week at a Notre Dame football pep rally. Rather, it is, according to the last rankings done by the World Health Organization, the chant appropriate for the U.S. health care system. What does the rest of the world know that we don’t?
There are many different ways to arrive at a list of the top priorities a society should set for itself. One could set priorities based on the intuitions or “gut instincts” people happen to have at any given time. Or, alternatively, one could base priorities on the empirical data we have concerning what harms individuals and societies and what the magnitude of the benefits of mitigating such harms would be. I prefer the latter approach.
Dr. J. chats with Zack Lynch, author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World, and founder of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization. They discuss the coming “neurosociety,” in which every part of life - work, commerce, law, relationships, recreation, religion, war - will be reshaped by neurotechnologies. Part 2 of 2. (First half here.)
Dr. J. chats with Zack Lynch, author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World, and founder of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization. They discuss the coming “neurosociety,” in which every part of life - work, commerce, law, relationships, recreation, religion, war - will be reshaped by neurotechnologies. Part 1 of 2. (Second half here.)
Abstract: Aging, being a composite of innumerable types of molecular and cellular decay, will be defeated incrementally. I have for some time predicted that this succession of advances will feature a threshold, which I here christen the “Methuselarity,” following which there will actually be a progressive decline in the rate of improvement in our anti-aging technology that is required to prevent a rise in our risk of death from age-related causes as we become chronologically older. Various commentators have observed the similarity of this prediction to that made by Good, Vinge, Kurzweil and others concerning technology in general (and, in particular, computer technology), which they have termed the “singularity.” In this essay I compare and contrast these two concepts.
The healthcare debate is shockingly narrow. We have the do nothing crowd, the privatize it more crowd, the single-payer people, and the public option folks. On the more radical end of the mainstream debates are those calling for more general practitioners, preventive care/incentives, and co-ops. Of the bills pushing through congress now, I have a feeling the public option is the only one with any teeth, but there are a million other non-mutually-exclusive ideas which could be implemented.
Many people, including me, are now used to being always online. With my smartphone powered by Google’s Android operating system, I am used to sending and receiving email and IMs anytime, from anywhere. It is easy to see how this trend will evolve: most routine computing applications will migrate to smartphones, the coverage and bandwidth of wireless networks will go up, and their price will go down. In only a few years, we will be used to being permanently plugged in the global Internet, and of course the user interfaces will improve. For example, as described by the visionary science fiction author Charlie Stross in his novel Halting State, augmented reality technology based on smart glasses will soon permit overcoming the limitations due to the small size of phones. A first generation of suitable smart glasses is already available, but there is something much better on the horizon: instant telepathic communication.
A look at California’s “real death panels,” the private insurers, as new data reveals they have denied one of every five claims in California over the past seven years. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speaks with Charles Idelson of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.
Dr. J. chats with California Institute of Technology economist Antonio Rangel about the paper from his neuroeconomics research group published in Science, “Using neural measures of economic value to solve the public goods free-rider problem.” They talk about the deconstruction of the idea of rational choices in politics and economics by neurological and behavioral research. (MP3)
Regulators around the world are currently grappling with how to manage the possible risks associated with first generation nanotechnologies. But increasingly sophisticated nanotechnology-based products are coming—will the old regulations still cover these emerging nanotechnologies, or is a re-think in how substances are regulated in order?
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