Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view



UPCOMING EVENTS: Technoprogressivism

Cascio @ Climate Engineering Conference 2014
August 18-21
Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany


Sorgner @ Posthuman Politics
September 25-28
University of the Aegean, Lesbos, Greece


Hughes, Vita-More, de Grey, Roux @ TransVision 2014
November 20-22
Paris, France




MULTIMEDIA: Technoprogressivism Topics

A vote for stem cells

Primitivism, Progress, the Transhuman & the Technological Avalanche

Cyborg Buddha

Buddhism & Transhumanism

Sued for Libel - Calling Out Pseudoscience in the Middle of Writing a Book on The Simpsons and Math

Harming and Protecting Robots

An incremental view of AI, IoT, and solar and battery power

Turing Tests for Morality & Intimacy, Moral Enhancement & Digital Moral Assistants

Robot Torture

Wireheading vs the Hedonistic Imperative

Was Friedrich Nietzsche a Transhumanist?

Voluntary Cybernetic Enhancement

Near-term Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues in Robotics (1hr 10min)

Cooking that kills: Where are the new cookstove technologies promised for developing countries?

The future is going to be wonderful (If we don’t get whacked by the existential risks)




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Technoprogressivism Topics




Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture

by George Dvorsky

There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.



The Maverick Nanny with a Dopamine Drip: Debunking Fallacies in the Theory of AI Motivation

by Richard Loosemore

My goal in this article is to demolish the AI Doomsday scenarios that are being heavily publicized by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, the Future of Humanity Institute, and others, and which have now found their way into the farthest corners of the popular press. These doomsday scenarios are logically incoherent at such a fundamental level that they can be dismissed as extremely implausible - they require the AI to be so unstable that it could never reach the level of intelligence at which it would become dangerous.  On a more constructive and optimistic note, I will argue that even if someone did try to build the kind of unstable AI system that might lead to one of the doomsday behaviors, the system itself would immediately detect the offending logical contradiction in its design, and spontaneously self-modify to make itself safe.



Plato and the Physicist: A Multicosmic Love Story

by Rick Searle

So I finally got around to reading Max Tegmark’s book Our Mathematical Universe, and while the book answered the question that had led me to read it, namely, how one might reconcile Plato’s idea of eternal mathematical forms with the concept of multiple universes, it also threw up a whole host of new questions. This beautifully written and thought provoking book made me wonder about the future of science and the scientific method, the limits to human knowledge, and the scientific, philosophical and moral meaning of various ideas of the multiverse.



The gathering storm of lab safety: Pathogen safety in federal labs

by Andrew Maynard

Over the past few weeks, revelations of potentially dangerous errors in US federal labs handling pathogens have placed health and safety high on the national agenda.  In June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced as many as 75 of its staff may have been exposed to anthrax due to safety issues at one of its labs.  At the beginning of July, vials of smallpox virus were found in an unsecured room at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Then earlier this week came the revelation that in the same room were over 300 vials containing pathogens such as dengue virus, influenza, and the bacterium that causes Q fever.



Should we have a right not to work?

by John Danaher

Voltaire once said that “work saves a man from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.” Many people endorse this sentiment. Indeed, the ability to seek and secure paid employment is often viewed as an essential part of a well-lived life. Those who do not work are reminded of the fact. They are said to be missing out on a valuable and fulfilling human experience. The sentiment is so pervasive that some of the foundational documents of international human rights law — including the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR Art. 23) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR Art. 6) — recognise and enshrine the “right to work”.



Liberal Democracy, The Third Way, & Social Futurism (pt. 2 of 3)

by Amon Twyman

Most broadly, Social Futurism stands for positive social change through technology; i.e. to address social justice issues in radically new ways which are only just now becoming possible thanks to technological innovation. If you would like some introduction to Social Futurist ideas, you can read the introduction page at wavism.net and there are links to articles at http://IEET.org listed at the top of this post. In this post I will discuss the Social Futurist alternative to Liberal Democratic and Authoritarian states, how that model fits with our views on decentralization and subsidiarity, and its relevance to the political concept of a “Third Way“.



Why We Should Be Careful About Adopting Social Robots

by Evan Selinger

Although Jibo, designed by MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal to be the “world’s first family robot,” isn’t set to ship until 2015, folks are already excited about this little bot with a “big personality.” While there’s much to be said for Breazeal’s vision of “humanizing technology” so that the smart home of the future doesn’t “feel cold and computerized,” we might want to pause a bit before rushing to build the type of world depicted in the movieHer. Although it is easy to imagine we’ll be better off when we’ve got less to do, we don’t actually know the existential and social implications ofoutsourcing ever-more intimate tasks to technology.



Do we need a better definition for synthetic biology?

by Andrew Maynard

Jim Thomas of the ETC Group has just posted a well reasoned article on the Guardian website  on the challenges of defining the the emerging technology of “synthetic biology”.  The article is the latest in a series of exchanges addressing the potential risks of the technology and its effective regulation.



Remaining Inaugural Members of NSABB Dismissed Last Night

by Kelly Hills

It’s not exactly been what one would call a banner month for the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the last week and change, it’s been revealed that oops, the CDC completely screwed up how it handles anthrax and possibly exposed 86-odd people to anthrax and they accidentally shipped out H9N2 that had been contaminated with H5N1



Why the Castles of Silicon Valley are Built out of Sand

by Rick Searle

If you get just old enough, one of the lessons living through history throws you is that dreams take a long time to die. Depending on how you date it, communism took anywhere from 74 to 143 years to pass into the dustbin of history, though some might say it is still kicking. The Ptolemaic model of the universe lasted from 100 AD into the 1600′s. Perhaps even more dreams than not simply refuse to die, they hang on like ghost, or ghouls, zombies or vampires, or whatever freakish version of the undead suits your fancy. Naming them would take up more room than I can post, and would no doubt start one too many arguments, all of our lists being different. Here, I just want to make an argument for the inclusion of one dream on our list of zombies knowing full well the dream I’ll declare dead will have its defenders.



Nanomedical Cognitive Enhancement

by Melanie Swan

Overview of Advances Articulated in Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions (2013) [1] This article provides an overview of the research findings related to cognitive enhancement that are presented in Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions (2013), an encyclopedic textbook chronicling a plethora of recent advances in myriad areas of nanotechnology and nanomedicine. The final chapter discusses progress in nanomedical cognitive enhancement, where we find ourselves in a modern era in which many technologies appear to be on the cusp – helping to resolve pathologies while also having much future potential for the augmentation of human capabilities.



Geoengineering as a Human Right

by Kris Notaro

Geoengineering has come under attack recently by conspiracy theorists, scientists, to “greens.” There have been many kinds of proposals for geoengineering, and even a legal/illegal experiment pouring 200,000 pounds of iron sulfate into the North Pacific which was supposed to increase plankton that would absorb carbon dioxide. The experiment did not work and pissed off a lot of scientists. China also recently stopped their “flattening of mountains.” Therefore this article is not purely about techniques of combating global warming, but about the need for people to understand that geoengineering is a must, not only a must, but also a “human right.”



When Global Catastrophes Collide: The Climate Engineering Double Catastrophe

by Seth Baum

It could be difficult for human civilization to survive a global catastrophe like rapid climate change, nuclear war, or a pandemic disease outbreak. But imagine if two catastrophes strike at the same time. The damages could be even worse. Unfortunately, most research only looks at one catastrophe at a time, so we have little understanding of how they interact.



Cognitive Enhancement Memory Management: Retrieval and Blocking

by Melanie Swan

One familiar notion of cognitive enhancement is prescription drugs that boost focus and concentration: ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications like Modafinil, Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin [1], and amphetamines like Adderall, Dexedrine, Benzedrine, Methedrine, Preludin, and Dexamyl [1-3].



How Should Humanity Steer the Future?

by Rick Searle

Over the spring the Fundamental Questions Institute (FQXi) sponsored an essay contest the topic of which should be dear to this audience’s heart- How Should Humanity Steer the Future? I thought I’d share some of the essays I found most interesting, but there are lots, lots, more to check out if you’re into thinking about the future or physics, which I am guessing you might be.



Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots

by Kate Darling

“Why do you cry, Gloria? Robbie was only a machine, just a nasty old machine. He wasn’t alive at all.”
“He was not no machine!” screamed Gloria fiercely and ungrammatically. “He was a person like you and me and he was my friend.” Isaac Asimov (1950). Most discussions of “robot rights” play out in a seemingly distant, science-fictional future. While skeptics roll their eyes, advocates argue that technology will advance to the point where robots deserve moral consideration because they are “just like us,” sometimes referencing the movie Blade Runner. Blade Runner depicts a world where androids have human-like emotions and develop human-like relationships to the point of being indistinguishable from people. But Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the novel on which the film is based, contains a small, significant difference in storyline…



On Fire and Climate Change

by Brenda Cooper

Somewhere around a dozen years ago, I was sitting in a bar in Eastern Washington. It could have been Lake Chelan or Yakima. I really don’t remember. But I do remember meeting two cowboys. Real cowboys (we still have them in the west). They weren’t talking about herds of cows over their beers.  They were talking about fires.



Global Catastrophic Risk conference - sponsored by IEET

by Hank Pellissier

On a sunny recent Saturday (June 14, 2014) in San Francisco’s East Bay, several dozen futurists gathered indoors for a 10-hour conference with 14 speakers discussing “Global Catastrophic Risks and Radical Futures.”



Jobs lost to automation: Doom and gloom? Maybe not, expert says

by Dick Pelletier

Although a study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs could be at risk of computerization over the next two decades, this does not necessarily need to be bad news, says futurist Thomas Frey in a recent Futurist Magazine essay.



MIT Robot Ethicist, Kate Darling, joins IEET as Affiliate Scholar

Dr. Kate Darling is a Research Specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Yale Information Society Project.

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Why the World Cup in Brazil Is Our Future: In More Ways Than One

by Rick Searle

The bold gamble of the Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis to have a paralysied person using an exoskeleton controlled by the brain kick a soccer ball during the World Cup opening ceremony  has paid off.  Yet, for how important the research of The Walk Again Project is to those suffering paralysis, the less than 2 second display of the technology did very little to live up to the pre-game media hype.



Is Modern Technology Creating a Borg-like Society?

by John Danaher

The Borg are the true villains of the Star Trek universe. True, the Klingons are warlike and jingoistic, the Romulans are devious and isolationist, and the Cardassians are just plain devious, but their methods and motivations are, for want of a better word, all too human-like. The Borg are truly alien: a hive-like superorganism, bent upon assimilating every living thing into their collective mind. To hardy individualists, this is the epitome of evil.



Environmental Justice and the Marginalization of Biospheric Egalitarianism

by Helen Kopnina

The IEET is committed to a position of non-anthropocentric personhood ethics, which values animals with personhood, such as apes, whales and dolphins, more than merely sentient creatures and nature in general. But this position is morally inconsistent and politically inadequate to the challenge of fighting back against ecological destruction. In contrast I offer a defence of the position of biosperic egalitarianism as the most consistent and politically effective stance in fighting for the interests of other species.



Jumping Off The Technological Hype-Cycle and the AI Coup

by Rick Searle

What we know is that the very biggest tech companies have been pouring money into artificial intelligence in the last year. Back in January Google bought the UK artificial intelligence firm Deep Mind for 400 million dollars. Only a month earlier, Google had bought the innovative robotics firm Boston Dynamics.



Obama Brain Initiative: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s patients raise hopes

by Dick Pelletier

The DARPA-funded program launches this month at two prestige locations, UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). This $26 million, multi-institutional research was announced last October by the President as our best chance at reducing the damage caused by a wide range of brain disorders including Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, and other dementia-related illnesses.



10 Futurist Phrases And Terms That Are Complete Bullshit

by George Dvorsky

Last month io9 told you about 20 terms every self-respecting futurist should know, but now it's time to turn our attention to the opposite.  Here are 10 pseudofuturist catchphrases and concepts that need to be eliminated from your vocabulary.



The Kingdom of Machines

by Rick Searle

For anyone thinking about the future relationship between nature-man-machines I’d like to make the case for the inclusion of an insightful piece of fiction to the canon. All of us have heard of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. And many, though perhaps fewer, of us have likely heard of fiction authors from the other side of the nature/technology fence, writers like Mary Shelley, or Ursula Le Guin, or nowadays, Paolo Bacigalupi, but certainly almost none of us have heard of Samuel Butler, or better, read his most famous novel Erewhon (pronounced with 3 short syllables E-re-Whon.)



The Three Laws of Pentagon Robotics

by David Swanson

The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.



The second dead of the small town, final? First dead of the small city

by Sebastian Pereira

Anyone who thinks ‘dystopian future’ first conjures the image of a sprawling mega metropolis where some version of a decadent elite, which lives in luxury, is surrounded by legions of the destitute, existing in harsh condition near or at the breaking point. Probable as such a future may be, what no one considers (almost no one) is how things got to that point?



New JET Article: Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections

The author of the essay, James Steinhoff, is a graduate student in the Department of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario.

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