Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Affiliate Scholar



MULTIMEDIA: Affiliate Scholar Topics

Algocracy and Transhuamnism Podcast: Hannah Maslen on the Ethics of Neurointerventions

Evan Selinger on Algorithmic Outsourcing and the Value of Privacy

Algocracy: Opportunities and Risks (videocast with Adam Ford)

The Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Episode 3

The Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Episode 2

Episode #1- Tal Zarsky on the Ethics of Big Data and Predictive Analytics

Surrogacy Conference

Hamlet’s Transhumanist Dilemma: Will Technology Replace Biology?

Ken Hayworth - Verifiable Brain Preservation

Future “Bodyshops”

Podcast Interview - Is High Tech Turning Us Into the Borg?

Powerful Nonsense Ep 95 - Finding meaning in an automated world

Singularity 1 on 1: Compassion is the reason to reverse aging!

Episode 237 - The Sofalurity Is Near

Ilia Stambler - Nigeria ICT Fest 2015




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Affiliate Scholar Topics




Imagining the Anthropocene

by Rick Searle

Almost a year ago now, while reading an article by the historian Yuval Harari in the British newspaper The Guardian, I had a visceral experience of what it means to live in the Anthropocene. Harari’s piece was about the horrors of industrial meat production, and as evidence of the scale of the monstrosity, he listed a set of facts that I had either not known, or had never taken the time to fully contemplate.



Does Self-Tracking Promote Autonomy? An Initial Argument

by John Danaher

Seneca was a wealthy Roman stoic and advisor to the emperor Nero. In the third of his Letters from a Stoic, entitled ‘On True and False Friendship’, he makes the following observation:

As to yourself, although you should live in such a way that you trust your own self with nothing which you could not entrust even to your own enemy, yet, since certain matters occur which convention keeps secret, you should share with a friend at least all your worries and reflections.



Review of Bryan Magee’s, “Ultimate Questions”

by John G. Messerly

Bryan Magee (1930 – ) has had a multifaceted career as a professor of philosophy, music and theater critic, BBC broadcaster, public intellectual and member of Parliament. He has starred in two acclaimed television series about philosophy: Men of Ideas (1978) and The Great Philosophers (1987). He is best known as a popularizer of philosophy. His easy-to-read books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages, include:



The Monotony of Work

by John G. Messerly

I corresponded with an old friend yesterday who was communicating the tedium of his work as a software engineer. He is thankful that he earns a six-figure salary, and he understands that most people in the world would happily trade places with him, but that doesn’t change the fact that a future filled with a lifetime of coding doesn’t excite his probing and restless mind. Minds like his need stimulation, and they could contribute so much to the rest of us if they were freed to follow their interests . Moreover, while technology companies pay some of the best wages in the United States, they expect more than 40 hours of work in return, which leaves my friend with less time with his children than he would like.



Is Effective Altruism Fair to Small Donors? (Guest Post by Iason Gabriel)

by John Danaher

NOTE: This is a guest post by Iason Gabriel from St. John’s College Oxford. I recently did a series on Iason’s excellent article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. In this post, Iason develops his counterfactual critique of effective altruism. Be sure to check out more of Iason’s work on his academia page.)



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Interviewed by Futurezone

When machines take all the jobs that people need to find new meaning in life. This could be for the company, according to John Danaher both curse and blessing.

Full Story...
Link to Futurezone



Is Effective Altruism actually Effective?

by John Danaher

(Part one; part two; part three)

This is going to be my final post on the topic of effective altruism (for the time being anyway). I’m working my way through the arguments in Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. Once I finish, Iason has kindly agreed to post a follow-up piece which develops some of his views.



Developing countries – help yourselves! A case study of Kazakhstan

by Ilia Stambler

On May 19, 2016, the World Health Organization released its report “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” describing the recent state of global health. The news is rather encouraging. The global life expectancy increased by 5 years, from about 66.5 to 71.4 presently, recording the fastest increase since the 1960s. The rightly so-called “developing” countries generally showed a much faster improvement compared to the complacently “developed” ones. Thus, Africa generally had the lowest life expectancy.



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Publishes New Paper in Journal: Bioethics

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher published a new paper coming out in the journal Bioethics. It’s about the philosophy of education and student use of cognitive enhancement drugs. It suggests that universities might be justified in regulating their students’ use of enhancement drugs, but only in a very mild, non-compulsory way. It suggests that a system of voluntary commitment contracts might be an interesting proposal. The details are below.

Full Story...
Link to Bioethics



Is Effective Altruism Methodologically Biased?

by John Danaher

(Part One; Part Two)

After a long hiatus, I am finally going to complete my series of posts about Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’ (changed from the original title ‘What’s wrong with effective altruism?). I’m pleased to say that once I finish the series I am also going to post a response by Iason himself which follows up on some of the arguments in his paper. Let me start today, however, by recapping some of the material from previous entries and setting the stage for this one.



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Publishes New Paper - Robots, Law and the Retribution Gap

Here is a new paper that John Danaher, IEET Affiliate Scholar, has published and will be coming out in the journal Ethics and Information Technology. In case you are interested, the idea for this paper originated in this blogpost from late 2014.

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Link to Ethics and Information Technology



Vacancy - Research Assistant on the Algocracy and Transhumanism Project

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher is hiring a research assistant as part of his Algocracy and Transhumanism project. It’s a short-term contract (5 months only) and available from July onwards. The candidate would have to be able to relocate to Galway for the period. Details below. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested.

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Link to Algocracy and Transhumanism Project



William James: Once Born and Twice Born People

by John G. Messerly

William James, in his famous book The Varieties of Religious Experience,  draws a contrast between what he calls “once born” and the “twice born” people.  Once born people appear biologically predisposed to happiness. They are relatively untroubled by their own setbacks as well as by the suffering the world; they rarely speak ill of others; they don’t complain much; they tend not to be fearful or angry. Today we might call them happy-go-lucky, easy-going or upbeat.



The Injustice of Sexism

by John G. Messerly

I read an interesting article this morning titled, “Late-breaking sexism”: why younger women aren’t excited about electing a woman president.” Its main theme is that while women have made great strides, there is still a lot of sexism in the USA, especially the kind that manifests itself in a woman’s late twenties and early thirties when the demands of career and family intersect.



What’s Killing the American Middle Class?

by Richard Eskow

A new study by the Pew Research Center spurred a rash of headlines last week about “the dying middle class.” But the word “dying” might be more appropriate if we were watching the regrettable but inevitable effects of natural forces at work. We’re not. We’re seeing the fruits of deliberate action—and sometimes of deliberate inaction—at the highest levels of power.



The Positive Effect of Nature on People

by John G. Messerly

A colleague recently sent me a link to an article which claims that having nature in your surroundings extends life and increases happiness. The article titled, “Having a nice garden could save your life, study suggests,” notes the strong association between exposure to greenness and vegetation and lower mortality rates.



Ethicists Generally Agree: The Pro-Life Arguments Are Worthless

by John G. Messerly

Abortion continues to make political news, but a question rarely asked by politicians or other interlocutors is: what do professional ethicists think about abortion? If ethicists have reached a consensus about the morality or immorality of abortion, surely their conclusions should be important. And, as a professional ethicist myself, I can tell you that among ethicists it is exceedingly rare to find defenders of the view that abortion is murder. In fact, support for this anti-abortion position, to the extent it exists at all, comes almost exclusively from the small percentage of philosophers who are theists. Yet few seem to take notice of this fact.



A Less Bleak Lesson from the Silent Universe

by Rick Searle

The astronomers Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan have an interesting paper out where they’ve essentially flipped the Drake Equation on its head. If that equation is meant to give us some handle on the probability that there are aliens out there, Frank and Sullivan have used the plethora of exoplanets discovered since the launch of the Kepler space telescope to calculate the chance that, so far, we alone have been the only advanced civilization in the 13.7 billion year history of the universe.



Nicotine Gum for Depression and Anxiety

by John G. Messerly

(Disclaimer – I’m not a medical doctor. For more info on these topics consult an M.D.)

I was thinking about a friend who quit smoking about 10 years ago with the help of nicotine gum. She eventually kicked the nicotine gum habit too, although she claimed that it was about as difficult to quit the gum as it was the cigarettes. She did notice that her ability to deal with anxiety was reduced after quitting the gum, and she also became more depressed. As a result, she has considered starting to chew gum again.



IEET Affiliate Scholar Roland Benedikter New Contribution to the ACATECH Report

On April 25 2016 the new report of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering (ACATECH) has been published: Innovation Potential of Human-Machine Interaction. IEET Affiliate Scholar Roland Benedikter contributed to this report. The Report is part of the official “Innovation Dialogue Between The German Federal Government, Economy and Science” (Innovationsdialog zwischen Bundesregierung, Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft 2015-16).

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Link to Innovation Potential of Human-Machine Interaction



The Ethics of Intimate Surveillance (2): A Landscape of Objections

by John Danaher

This is the second in a two-part series (read Part I here)looking at the ethics of intimate surveillance. In part one, I explained what was meant by the term ‘intimate surveillance’, gave some examples of digital technologies that facilitate intimate surveillance, and looked at what I take to be the major argument in favour of this practice (the argument from autonomy).



The Deeper Meaning of the Anthropocene

by Rick Searle

Last year when I wrote a review of E.O. Wilson’s book The Meaning of Human Existence I felt sure it would be the then 85 year old’s last major work. I was wrong having underestimated Professor Wilson’s already impressive intellectual stamina. Perhaps his latest book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life is indeed his last, the final book that concludes the trilogy of The Social Conquest of Earth and the Meaning of Human Existence.



A New Theory of Time: X-tention is Simultaneously Discrete and Continuous

by Melanie Swan

Time has been conceived mainly as either discrete or continuous, but not widely as a simultaneity of the two. I would like to articulate a new theory of time in which time is reconceived as a ‘raw material’ whose natural state is both discrete and continuous. This is a “middle third” position that extends Husserl’s theory of internal time consciousness by being a new form of time in the middle between and connecting retention-protention (which are continuous) and recollection-expectation (which are discrete).



The Ethics of Intimate Surveillance (1)

by John Danaher

Intimate Surveillance’ is the title of an article by Karen Levy - a legal and sociological scholar currently-based at NYU. It shines light on an interesting and under-explored aspect of surveillance in the digital era. The forms of surveillance that capture most attention are those undertaken by governments in the interests of national security or corporations in the interests of profit.



What’s happening inside the black box? Three forms of algorithmic opacity

by John Danaher

The debate about algorithmic governance (or as I prefer ‘algocracy’) has been gathering pace over the past couple of years. As computer-coded algorithms become ever more woven into the fabric of economic and political life, and as the network of data-collecting devices that feed these algorithms grows, we can expect that pace to quicken.



Is The Singularity A Religious Doctrine?

by John G. Messerly

A colleague forwarded John Horgan‘s recent Scientific American article, “The Singularity and the Neural Code.” Horgan argues that the intelligence augmentation and mind uploading that would lead to a technological singularity depend upon cracking the neural code. The problem is that we don’t understand our neural code, the software or algorithms that transform neurophysiology into the stuff of minds like perceptions, memories, and meanings. In other words, we know very little about how brains make minds.



Moral Theories and Moral Intuitions

by John G. Messerly

Moral theories often conflict with our moral intuitions; they are often counter-intuitive. Explanations, theories, or beliefs are counter-intuitive if they violate our ordinary, common-sense view. For example, it’s counter-intuitive to suppose that physical reality is illusory, although there is no way to demonstrate this isn’t the case. Similarly, it’s counter-intuitive to suppose the keyboard upon which I type is moving, although the keyboard, earth, solar system, galaxy, and entire universe move! This demonstrates that non-moral intuitions are often mistaken.



Blockchains and the Emergence of a Lex Cryptographia

by John Danaher

Here’s an interesting idea. It’s taken from Aaron Wright and Primavera de Filippi’s article ‘Decentralized Blockchain Technology and the Rise of Lex Cryptographia’. The article provides an excellent overview of blockchain technology and its potential impact on the law. It ends with an interesting historical reflection. It suggests that the growth of blockchain technology may give rise to a new type of legal order: a lex cryptographia. This is similar to how the growth in international trading networks gave rise to a lex mercatoria and how the growth in the internet gave rise to a lex informatica.



Bruce Sterling urges us not to panic, just yet

by Rick Searle

My favorite part about the SXSW festival comes at the end. For three decades now the science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling has been giving some of the most insightful (and funny) speeches on the state of technology and society. In some sense this year’s closing remarks were no different, and in others they represented something very new.

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Vita-More, Swan at NY Posthuman Research Group Symposium

IEET Fellow Natasha Vita-More will be the Keynote Speaker, and Affiliate Scholar Melanie Swan will also give a talk at the NY Posthuman Research Group’s 2nd annual Glocal Symposium on Posthuman Futures.

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