Last week’s announcement from the J. Craig Venter Institute that scientists had created the first-ever synthetic cell was a profoundly significant point in human history, and marked a turning point in our quest to control the natural world. But the ability to use this emerging technology wisely is already being dogged by fears that we have embarked down a dangerous and morally dubious path.
Warring Futures: How Biotech and Robotics are Transforming Today's Military
George Poste, Chief Scientist, Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative, Arizona State University gives the keynote address to a May 24th, 2010 meeting on “Warring Futures: How Biotech and Robotics are Transforming Today’s Military—and How That Will Change the Rest of Us.” Dr. Poste’s talk was titled “Bugs, Bits and Engineering Bioforms: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” The meeting was sponsored by Arizona State University, New America Foudnation, and Slate magazine.
In its first season, Caprica has done an excellent job of exploring the ethical issues relating to V-World (the virtual world created by the ultra-rich Daniel Graystone), looking at the dangers of becoming overly immersed in V-World, and whether an avatar constitutes a real person. Also in the past year, we’ve seen Gamer and Surrogates, two movies that explore some common themes with interesting parallels to those in Caprica.
The IEET’s Journal of Evolution and Technology has received an “A” ranking in Australia’s official government process for ranking peer-reviewed journals, which means that publication in JET will now carry significant kudos and funding for Australian academics in federally-funded institutions.
Last week, researchers announced that they had achieved a long-anticipated breakthrough: the creation of the first synthetic organism. So, is this a huge step forward? The biggest thing ever? Does it herald exciting possibilities—or maybe ominous dangers? Is it much ado about nothing? That all depends on who you ask.
This experimental robot, created by researchers at the University of Southern California, is completely autonomous and trained by machine learning algorithms. The video is real-time, i.e., not sped up.
Research Fellow Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy Professor Massimo Pigliucci of the City University of New York debate the meaning of intelligence and the possible limits of AI.
The Singularity and the outer limits of physical possibility (08:38)
Do human brains run software? (09:58)
Consciousness, intelligence, and computation (03:14)
What could minds be made of? (13:08)
Is mind-uploading a dualist dream? (19:18)
Would the Singularity be a Vonnegut-style catastrophe? (10:56)
What seemed to be an intractable puzzle, with significant religious overtones, has been solved. J Craig Venter, Ham Smith, Clyde Hutchinson, Daniel Gibson and a team of scientists at the Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., have made a new living bacterium from a set of genes they decoded, artificially combined and then stuck into the cored out remains of the bacterium of another species. In other words, they created a living thing from man-made parts. Or, in more important words, they created a novel lifeform from man-made parts.
As the historian Robert Nisbet writes, “No single idea has been more important than, perhaps as important as, the idea of progress in Western civilization for nearly three thousand years.” But let’s understand what we mean by progress.
Foresight from three different perspectives: aspirational foresight as a way of setting challenges and goals for ourselves; evaluative foresight as a way of testing our strategies; and anticipatory foresight as a kind of civilizational immune system, sensitizing ourselves to the disruptive changes ahead.
“There won’t be generations anymore,” says Aubrey de Grey of tomorrow’s world where anti-aging treatments will give us at least 30 extra years of life. You’ll be able to keep up with your granddaughter on the ski slopes, he told his host at the Lift 2010 conference in Geneva Thursday 6 May. And for de Grey, the future is close: we can expect to see such treatments within our lifetimes, he believes….Link
Regarding the current mess on Wall Street, billionaire Mark Cuban and I have joined the chorus for a securities trade tax, that would both bring in needed revenue and apply incentives for investors to care, just a little, about the stocks they buy, rather than viewing them as chits in a fast-paced game that only giants can play.
The poor cloning debate has turned into a thoroughly-beaten dead horse and yet, here I find myself, brandishing a fresh cudgel and eying the rhetorical equestrian corpse for some worthy target. Let me begin by doing something people rarely do when debating issues like this: state what I am actually defending.
Over the last 20 years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has been issuing patents to universities and private companies on raw human genes. One company or university is given a legal monopoly over a molecule that is inside every human being and many other animals. This soon-to-be-finished documentary explores the legal, ethical, and clinical ramifications of human gene patenting.
Progressive economist Samuel Bowles is heading the behavioral science program at the complexity theory thinktank Santa Fe Institute. He thinks we could become more prosperous if we ended inequality, and that a basic income would help. Our brains would like it too, says recent research. And a little bit on “human-racism.” MP3
As part of the spring 2010 Take Your Brain to Lunch Lecture Series, Martha Farah, Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences in the Department of Psychology and Director of Penn’s new Center for Neuroscience and Society, led conversations with Penn faculty members about the brain. In this video, Susan Schneider, Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Assistant Professor of Philosophy, discusses Future Brains: How Might Our Great-Great-Grandchildren Think (and Will They Still Be Human?).