[Contains spoilers.] How far does personhood and the rights associated with it reach across species? True Blood gives us an intelligent exploration of some aspects of this issue, specifically when that other species is perceived as dangerous, cruel, unnatural, and unholy. Unfortunately though, too often even those who support vampire rights refer to them as not being persons, instead emphasizing that they are essentially human or that vampires are a second species deserving of rights. A much more adaptable framework of rights could be built based on emphasizing the characteristics of personhood, such as intelligence and capacity to feel.
You have my express permission to kick the next person—especially someone advocating the embrace of radical forms of technological advancement—who tells you that they wish nothing more than to get rid of, move beyond, or otherwise avoid “politics.” Kick them hard, and repeatedly. They have adopted a profoundly ignorant and self-serving position, one that betrays at best a lack of understanding of human nature and society, and at worst a malicious desire to preemptively shut down any opposition to their goals.
Continuing our effort to flesh out the parameters of technoprogressive policy ideas by building our “Technoprogressive Policy Wiki”, we turn now to the problems created by the push to patent everything, including human genes, and shut down all fair use and copying of music, texts and film. IEET intern Ed Miller has been engaged with open source and intellectual property issues for some time, and has taken a crack at a general policy statement on this issue. We welcome feedback. - J. Hughes
The Matrix and Terminator movies present a nightmare world in which artificially intelligent machines pit themselves against humanity with devastating consequences. Could something like that really happen?
Fastfroward’s Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon welcome a panel of leading thinkers on artificial intelligence to explore these issues:
In the near future, is machine intelligence going to equal or overtake human intelligence in terms of speed and capability?
If so, what can we do to make sure these new intelligences are on our side?
Eliezer Yudkowsky is the world’s foremost researcher on Friendly AI and recursive self-improvement. He is a research fellow with the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
James Hughes is the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and he is the producer and host of the weekly syndicated public affairs talk show Changesurfer Radio
Ben Goertzel is a Fellow of the IEET, the chief science officer and acting CEO of Novamente and Director of Research for the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
Of all the new media impacting the arts, the media of human enhancement may be receiving the most socio-political attention but the least artistic enthusiasm. Recently there has been an increase in the number of formal discussions of human enhancement technologies amongst artists, designers and curators. In 2008, “Human Enhancement Technologies: The Role of Art and Design” spearheaded social and ethical implication of enhancement technologies. In 2009, “Human Enhancement & Nanotechnology Conference” and FACT’s “Human Futures” programme breached a gap in science and art with discussions of aesthetics norms and ethics. Nonetheless, the elements of aesthetics in engaging human enhancement were of less consequence.
Last March, Jamais gave a talk in Menlo Park entitled “Cascio’s Laws of Robotics.” I’ve already posted a link to the slides I used, and to essays and interviews covering related topics. Now—finally—the video of the talk is available.
Why the single payer is a far better bet than a public option. Why the jobs may not come back. Why a 35 hour 4 day week is even better than a 40 hour 4 day week. Why seniors need to be biotechnologically enabled and encouraged to work longer.
IEET readers appear to be mostly optimistic about our civilization’s chances for survival by the end of the 21st century. In a recent poll, every multiple choice response that was either positive or neutral was selected more often than any of those that were negative.
Nanoethics. Neuroethics. Synbioethics. How many bioethics subfields do we really need to grapple with the issues at the cutting edge of contemporary science? Maybe just one, suggest the authors of a recent report from the Hastings Center and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars: an ethics of emerging technologies. Gregory Kaebnick and Andrew Light talk with Managing Editor Andrew Pratt About the Ethics of Emerging Technologies. Read the article here. Listen to the interview here.
Abstract: The prospect of neurotechnologies for mood manipulation alarms some people who worry about the pernicious effects they might have. In particular there is a concern that individuals will be pressured to make themselves inauthentically happy, and tolerant of things that should make them sad or angry. The most common result of social pressures to adjust mood will likely be far more beneficial both for the individual and society. This essay reviews research on the stresses of “emotion work” and the personality correlates of “subjective well-being” to argue that social pressures will generally encourage individuals to be happy by encouraging them to be more friendly, patient, and engaged. Several more pernicious kinds of social pressures for mood control are then reviewed to illustrate the need for democratic scrutiny of the use of neurotechnologies, guided by a goal of encouraging an engaged, dynamic, flourishing personality in each citizen.
Radio Lab is one of the most awesome podcasts/radio programs in the audiosphere. Here Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich work their magic again, this time on the topic of death.
1. Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks: Biologist Lee Silver tells us the story of a physician’s ambitious 1907 experiment to discover the weight of the soul.
2. Metamorphosis: One possibility of the afterlife from David Eagleman, read by actor Jeffrey Tambor.
3. When Am I Dead?: Is life over when your heart stops beating? When you take your last breath? When your brain fizzles out? Author and researcher Gary Greenberg and John Troyer explore these questions.
4. Anyone for Tennis?: We ask neuroscientist Adrian Owen, can the dead play tennis?
5. 4 Seconds Down: Soren Wheeler tells the story of Ken Baldwin, a man who is looking for death but finds a new view on life.
6. Am I Dead?: Neurological psychologist Paul Broks introduces us to a patient who thinks she’s dead.
7. If I Only Had A Brain: If you don’t have one anymore, David Eagleman tells Jad and Robert he knows the next best thing.
8. Ineffable: A story on the afterlife by David Eagleman from his book SUM, read by actor Jeffrey Tambor.
9. Booyah Mozart: Producer Lulu Miller brings us a conversation with geologist Jan Zalasiewicz about what we’ll leave behind … in a hundred million years.
10. Cyberternity: Producer Emily Voigt tells a story about a guy named Wyatt, fixed in time.
11. Goodbye: Paleontologist and professor Peter Ward describes the ultimate death, the death of the universe ... THE END.
An article I posted here two days ago apparently gave an impression different from what I intended to convey. To begin with, the title (“Drawing Lines”) was poorly chosen, since it implies that I’m in favor of making sharp distinctions between what technoprogressives should and should not believe. The title was only meant to indicate the subject matter—i.e., whether such lines should be drawn—and not to suggest that they definitely ought to be.
Over on Hacker News, GraffitiTim points out something interesting: “The first civilization started in Mesopotamia around 5000 BCE (more or less), which is 7,000 years ago. If you live until age 80, that’s more than 1% of the history of civilization.” So you can expect to live for more than 1% of the life span of human civilization to this date.
If mating is partly about choosing half the genome of your children, do your potential partners in parenting have an obligation to disclose that they have had so much “work” done on their face and body that they now look nothing like their original phenotype? Will cosmetics and plastic surgery blunt the selection of more beautiful women via sexual selection?
We invest money, time, and effort in procuring the best possible hardware and software for our projects. In the same manner, we want the people in our teams to have the necessary knowledge and skills. We can be quite vocal in our beliefs that people are the most important asset, and ongoing education a necessity of the modern economy. Except that when it comes to learning, we are really, really bad.
Dan Novak teaches about The Sixties, philosophy and futurism at the University of Rhode Island. A veteran of the spiritual counterculture and the political Left, Dan talks with Dr. J. about globalization, spirituality, the Marxist writer Ernst Bloch, and the concept of a “planetary praxis,” uniting personal spiritual growth with global social change. (MP3)
Although biotechnology patents existed prior to the 1980s as the biotechnology era officially began, they soon became a divisive public policy issue. Perhaps a culture war issue is more appropriate as the free market approach of using DNA patents in biomedical research is under fire from strange bedfellows, a bioconservative-technoprogressive axis. The bioconservative criticisms are on moral grounds and the technoprogressive criticisms for economic reasons based on values.
Stewart Brand, who helped usher in the environmental movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, has been rethinking his positions on cities, nuclear power, genetic modification and geoengineering. This talk at the US State Department, a foretaste of his major new book, is sure to provoke widespread debate.