Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Overview of technopolitics

whats new at ieet

Hope: A Defense

How Human Consciousness Evolved

It’s a tough world out there: and now a drumbeat for war on Iran.

Will Superhuman Intelligence Be Our Friend or Foe?

Don’t fear superintelligent AI

Can you be friends with a robot? Aristotelian Friendship and Robotics

ieet books

Chasing Shadows: Visions of Our Coming Transparent World
David Brin

TECHNOPROG, le transhumanisme au service du progrès social
Marc Roux and Didier Coeurnelle

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
John G Messerly

eHuman Deception
Nicole Sallak Anderson


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Journal of Evolution and Technology

Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Jesse I. Bailey
I argue that Heidegger’s account of technology as “enframing” is a helpful lens through which to understand the possible effects and dangers of transhumanism. Without resorting to nebulous concepts such as “dignity,” Heidegger’s analysis can help us understand how new technologies employed to modify the body, brain, and consciousness will enframe our own bodies and identities as something akin to “standing reserve.” Under transhumanism, the body is enframed as an external, technologically modifiable product. I indicate some of the problems that might arise when our own bodies no longer appear as central to our identity as embodied beings. Further, I argue that, by treating aspects of our own consciousness as technologically modifiable, we will be driven into a commodified and inauthentic relation to our identities. By examining the work of prominent transhumanists – including Brad Allenby, Daniel Sarewitz, and Andy Clark – I show how the threat that technology poses can be hidden when the essence of technology is not uncovered in a primordial way. I argue that by threatening to obscure death as a foundational possibility for Dasein, transhumanism poses the danger of hiding the need to develop a free and authentic relation to technology, Truth, and ultimately to Dasein itself.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Marcelo de Araujo
The possibility of morally enhancing the behavior of individuals by means of drugs and genetic engineering has been the object of intense philosophical discussion over the last few years. However, although moral enhancement may turn out to be useful to promote cooperation in some areas of human interaction, it will not promote cooperation in the domain of international relations in those areas that are critical to state security. Unlike some moral enhancement theorists, I argue that, because of the structure of the system of states, moral enhancement cannot be used to avert such major threats to humankind as terrorism and nuclear conflict. My analysis of the political implications of moral enhancement is pursued through a critical discussion of two different versions of political realism, namely human nature realism and structural realism. I conclude that, as far as major threats to the survival of humankind are concerned, moral enhancement can at most be used as a means to change the present structure of the system of states.

(2) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Michele Rapoport
Intelligent systems and devices are at the forefront of technological innovation and hold particular appeal for the creative imagination. Their appearance in the arts, fiction, and film allow one to glean insights into apprehensions regarding the contemporary human condition and concerns for its future. This study examines the loss of life and the absencing of the other as embodied in intelligent devices, as they are presented in three current, popular films. In these films, human fallibility and mortality provide the raison d’être for the creation and development of intelligent devices and systems. Moreover, the power that these technologies hold is in their evocation of lost life and human transience, and in the manner by which they both conceal and reveal absence and loss.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Book review: Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager

Russell Blackford
The Transhumanist Wager may inspire some useful debates among transhumanists and others concerned with future of humanity, but I can’t wish it any influence on their thinking. I certainly hope it won’t be taken by outsiders as an accurate picture of transhumanism as a philosophy or a social movement.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Book review: Ted Chu’s Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential

Michael E. Zimmerman
Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential may be the most important book in favor of transhumanism since Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near (2005).

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Film Review: Transcendence

Seth Baum
Is it possible to create an artificial mind? Can a human or other biological mind be uploaded into computer hardware? Should these sorts of artificial intelligences be created, and under what circumstances? Would the AIs make the world better off? These and other deep but timely questions are raised by the recent film Transcendence (dir. Wally Pfister, 2014).

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

If You See a Cyborg in the Road, Kill the Buddha: Against Transcendental Transhumanism

Woody Evans
A stream in transhumanism argues that the aims of Buddhism and transhumanists are akin. It is the case that transhumanism contains religious tropes, and its parallels to Christianity are readily apparent. It does not share much, however, with Buddhism’s Zen tradition. Zen tends to focus its practitioners on becoming fully present and human, not on becoming transcendent, super-powered, or posthuman. This paper explores some of the tensions between transhumanism and Buddhism through the lens of Zen, and suggests that transhumanist Buddhists should be careful not to conflate moments of spiritual enlightenment with permanent techno-social transcendence.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

The Pleasure Principle as a Tool for Scientific Forecasting of Human Self-Evolution

Victor Y. Argonov
The pleasure principle (PP) may be a verifiable fundamental law of the living matter in the universe, and this law might then be used for forecasting human self-evolution. I do not pretend to “prove” PP, but argue that it must be regarded as a scientific hypothesis. Accordingly, I formulate verifiable and falsifiable postulates of PP. Their confirmation would allow the construction of a new scientific discipline, hedodynamics, that would be able to forecast the future development of human civilization and even the probable structure and psychology of other rational beings within the universe. I suggest basic hedodynamical scenarios for human (posthuman) civilization and argue that the discovery of the neural correlate of pleasure would provide more detailed forecasts. In particular, I demonstrate how the studies of pleasure mechanisms might predict the degree of aggression in future societies. I conclude that PP may become a scientific basis for fundamental, not phenomenological (based on extrapolations), future forecasting on large timescales.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections

James Steinhoff
There exists a real dearth of literature available to Anglophones dealing with philosophical connections between transhumanism and Marxism. This is surprising, given the existence of works on just this relation in the other major European languages and the fact that 47 per cent of people surveyed in the 2007 Interests and Beliefs Survey of the Members of the World Transhumanist Association identified as “left,” though not strictly Marxist (Hughes 2008). Rather than seeking to explain this dearth here, I aim to contribute to its being filled in by identifying three fundamental areas of similarity between transhumanism and Marxism. These are: the importance of material conditions and particularly, technological advancement, for revolution; conceptions of human nature; and conceptions of nature in general. While it is true that both Marxism and (especially) transhumanism are broad fields that encompass diverse positions, even working with somewhat generalized characterizations of the two reveals interesting parallels and dissimilarities fruitful for future work. This comparison also shows that transhumanism and Marxism can learn important lessons from one another that are complementary to their respective projects. I suggest that Marxists can learn from transhumanists two lessons: that some “natural” forces may become reified forces and the extent to which the productive apparatus is now relevant to revolution. Transhumanists, on the other hand, can learn from Marxist theory the essentially social nature of the human being and the ramifications this has for the transformation of the human condition and for the forms of social organization compatible with transhumanist aims. Transhumanists can also benefit from considering the relevance of Marx’s theory of alienation to their goals of technological advancement.

(5) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee

John Danaher
Is sex work (specifically, prostitution) vulnerable to technological unemployment? Several authors have argued that it is. They claim that the advent of sophisticated sexual robots will lead to the displacement of human prostitutes, just as, say, the advent of sophisticated manufacturing robots have displaced many traditional forms of factory labour. But are they right? In this article, I critically assess the argument that has been made in favour of this displacement hypothesis. Although I grant the argument a degree of credibility, I argue that the opposing hypothesis -- that prostitution will be resilient to technological unemployment -- is also worth considering. Indeed, I argue that increasing levels of technological unemployment in other fields may well drive more people into the sex work industry. Furthermore, I argue that no matter which hypothesis you prefer -- displacement or resilience -- you can make a good argument for the necessity of a basic income guarantee, either as an obvious way to correct for the precarity of sex work, or as a way to disincentivise those who may be drawn to prostitution.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Technological Unemployment but Still a Lot of Work…

Katarzyna Gajewska
This article explores the impact of both technological unemployment and a basic income on the provision of services of general interest. A basic income may promote the restructuring of production into postcapitalist forms and projects involving peer production. This change, as well as technological unemployment, will result in lower state and market capacities to provide services. Instead, people will create various forms of self-organization to meet their needs. The paper presents examples of such models. Some ideas about the new forms of inequalities in this system will be presented to inspire a further study of this scenario.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Technological Growth and Unemployment:  A Global Scenario Analysis

Riccardo Campa
The aim of this article is to explore the possible futures generated by the development of artificial intelligence. Our focus will be on the social consequences of automation and robotisation, with special attention being paid to the problem of unemployment. In spite of the fact that this investigation is mainly speculative in character, we will try to develop our analysis in a methodologically sound way. To start, we will make clear that the relation between technology and structural unemployment is still controversial. Therefore, the hypothetical character of this relation must be fully recognized. Secondly, as proper scenario analysis requires, we will not limit ourselves to predict a unique future, but we will extrapolate from present data at least four different possible developments: 1) unplanned end of work scenario; 2) planned end of robots scenario; 3) unplanned end of robots scenario, and 4) planned end of work scenario. Finally, we will relate the possible developments not just to observed trends but also to social and industrial policies presently at work in our society which may change the course of these trends.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Workers and Automata:  A Sociological Analysis of the Italian Case

Riccardo Campa
The aim of this investigation is to determine if there is a relation between automation and unemployment within the Italian socio-economic system. Italy is Europe’s second nation and the fourth in the world in terms of robot density, and among the G7 it is the nation with the highest rate of youth unemployment. Establishing the ultimate causes of unemployment is a very difficult task, and the notion itself of ‘technological unemployment’ is controversial. Mainstream economics tends to relate the high rate of unemployment that characterises Italian society with the low flexibility of the labour market and the high cost of manpower. Little attention is paid to the impact of artificial intelligence on the level of employment. With reference to statistical data, we will try to show that automation can be seen at least as a contributory cause of unemployment. In addition, we will argue that both Luddism and anti-Luddism are two faces of the same coin. In both cases attention is focused on technology itself (the means of production) instead of on the system (the mode of production). Banning robots or denying the problems of robotisation are not effective solutions. A better approach would consist in combining growing automation with a more rational redistribution of income.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

A History of the BIG Idea: Winstanley, Paine, Skidmore and Bellamy

Jamie Bronstein
The notion that humans have a right to basic capital or to a basic income guarantee by virtue of their existence can be traced to the Enlightenment. Many of the suggestions inherent in modern proposals for basic income or basic capital originated with four forerunners in the Anglo-American tradition: Gerrard Winstanley, Thomas Paine, Thomas Skidmore, and Edward Bellamy. All four embraced the notion that the equal moral considerability of all humans implied an equal right to the resources needed to survive, and were subjected to withering criticism of their ideals on the grounds that the provision of basic resources conflicted with rather than enhanced freedom.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

A Strategic Opening for a Basic Income Guarantee in the Global Crisis…

James Hughes
Robotics and artificial intelligence are beginning to fundamentally change the relative profitability and productivity of investments in capital versus human labor, creating technological unemployment at all levels of the workforce, from the North to the developing world. As robotics and expert systems become cheaper and more capable the percentage of the population that can find employment will also fall, stressing economies already trying to curtail "entitlements" and adopt austerity. Two additional technology-driven trends will exacerbate the structural unemployment crisis in the coming decades, desktop manufacturing and anti-aging medicine. Desktop manufacturing threatens to disintermediate the half of all workers involved in translating ideas into products in the hands of consumers, while anti-aging therapies will increase the old age dependency ratio of retirees to tax-paying workers. Policies that are being proposed to protect or create employment will have only a temporary moderating effect on job loss. Over time these policies, which will raise costs, lower the quality of goods and services, and lower competitiveness, will become fiscally impossible and lose political support. In order to enjoy the benefits of technological innovation and longer, healthier lives we will need to combine policies that control the pace of replacing paid human labor with a universal basic income guarantee (BIG) provided through taxation and the public ownership of wealth. The intensifying debate over the reform of "entitlements" will be the strategic opening for a campaign for BIG to replace disability and unemployment insurance, Social Security, and other elements of the welfare state.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Technology, Unemployment & Policy Options: Navigating the Transition to a Better World

Gary E. Marchant, Yvonne A. Stevens and James M. Hennessy
There is growing concern that emerging technologies such as computers, robotics and artificial intelligence are displacing human jobs, creating an epidemic of “technological unemployment.” While this projection has yet to be confirmed, if true it will have major economic and social repercussions for our future. It is therefore appropriate to begin identifying policy options to address this potential problem. This article offers an economic and social framework for addressing this problem, and then provides an inventory of possible policy options organized into the following six categories: (a) slowing innovation and change; (b) sharing work; (c) making new work; (d) redistribution; (e) education; and (f) fostering a new social contract.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

BIG and Technological Unemployment:  Chicken Little Versus the Economists

Mark Walker
The paper rehearses arguments for and against the prediction of massive technological unemployment. The main argument in favor is that robots are entering a large number of industries, making more expensive human labor redundant. The main argument against the prediction is that for two hundred years we have seen a massive increase in productivity with no long term structural unemployment caused by automation. The paper attempts to move past this argumentative impasse by asking what humans contribute to the supply side of the economy. Historically, humans have contributed muscle and brains to production but we are now being outcompeted by machinery, in both areas, in many jobs. It is argued that this supports the conjecture that massive unemployment is a likely result. It is also argued that a basic income guarantee is a minimal remedial measure to mitigate the worst effects of technological unemployment.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This

Are Technological Unemployment and a Basic Income Guarantee Inevitable or Desirable?

James Hughes
The question is a simple one: if in the future robots take most people’s jobs, how will human beings eat? The answer that has been more or less obvious to most of those who have taken the prospect seriously has been that society’s wealth would need to be re-distributed to support everyone as a citizen’s right. That is the proposition we used to frame this special issue of the journal, and the contributors have explored new and important dimensions of the equation.

(0) CommentsShare on facebook Stumble This


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
35 Harbor Point Blvd, #404, Boston, MA 02125-3242 USA
Email: director @