Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Affiliate Scholar

Wallach, Hughes, Vita-More, Smart, Lin, Darling @ Governance of Emerging Technologies
May 26-28
Scottsdale, AZ USA


Danaher @ Clinical Neuroethics: Bench to Bedside
June 17-19
Paris, France




MULTIMEDIA: Affiliate Scholar Topics

The Ethics of Moral Enhancement

Are We Heading for a Jobless Future?

Does death make life worth living?

Review of EX MACHINA

What is the Future of Synthetic Meat?

Transformative Technology: An Evolution of Contemplative Practice

Review of VRLA Expo 2015

Support the Progressive Caucus Budget

Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot Revisted

What is the Future of Brain Enhancement?

What Is Philosophy For?

Interview on Robot Overlordz: Tech Unemployment and Enhancement

Mark Lewis on “Have We Reached Peak Education?”

Alan Watts: Who Am I?

Better political decision-making via better technology?




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Affiliate Scholar Topics




The Scientific Method is a Scientific Idea that is Ready for Retirement

by Melanie Swan

The scientific idea that is most ready for retirement is the scientific method itself. More precisely it is the idea that there would be only one scientific method, one exclusive way of obtaining scientific results. The problem is that the traditional scientific method as an exclusive approach is not adequate to the new situations of contemporary science like big data, crowdsourcing, and synthetic biology.

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Democratic Socialism - is it Ideal for Transhumanism?

by Hank Pellissier

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, is campaigning to be the next USA President.  He defines himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and praises Scandinavian nations. USA citizenry is largely puzzled and aghast:

“The only thing most American know about socialism is they don’t like it.” - Leo Huberman

In a survey of transhumanists, 16.9% described themselves as Socialist, 4.2% Marxist, 32.7% Liberal, 27.4 Libertarian, and 15.6 Moderate. The Transhumanist Party is running a candidate in 2016 - Zoltan Istvan. I’ll be posting a series of articles on transhumanist political positions.

In this first installment, I interview four contributors to IEET.

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The Strange Prescience of Frank Herbert’s Dune

by Rick Searle

As William Gibson always reminds us the real role of science-fiction isn’t so much to predict the future as to astound us with the future’s possible weirdness.  It almost never happens that science-fiction writers get core or essential features of this future weirdness right, and when they do, according to Gibson, it’s almost entirely by accident. Nevertheless, someone writing about the future can sometimes, and even deliberately, play the role of Old Testament prophet, seeing some danger to which the rest of us are oblivious and guess at traps and dangers into which we later fall. (Though let’s not forget about the predictions of opportunity.)

Frank Herbert’s Dune certainly wasn’t intended to predict the future, but he was certainly trying to give us a warning.

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We Should Consider The Future World As One Of Multi-Species Intelligence

by Melanie Swan

Considering machines that think is a nice step forward in the AI debate as it departs from our own human-based concerns, and accords machines otherness in a productive way. It causes us to consider the other entity’s frame of reference. However, even more importantly this questioning suggests a large future possibility space for intelligence.

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‘Let’s Kick Islam & Christianity out of Africa’ - interview with Nigerian activist Jd Otit

by Hank Pellissier

I am interested in “secularizing” Africa because I believe this would benefit the continent intellectually, socially, and economically. To help advance this goal I support Kasese Humanist Primary School, and I co-launched BiZoHa - the world’s first atheist orphanage.

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Review of “Moral Status of Cloning Humans” by Michael Tooley

by John G. Messerly

Michael Tooley’s article “Moral Status of Cloning Humans” defends human cloning. I am in complete agreement with it. Cloning, despite the viceral reaction it raises, is a tool in the arsenal of the transhumanist once it is understood.

Here is a brief outline of the article with a bit of commentary identified by parenthesis.

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Auguries of Immortality, Malthus and the Verge

by Rick Searle

Sometimes, if you want to see something in the present clearly it’s best to go back to its origins. This is especially true when dealing with some monumental historical change, a phase transition from one stage to the next. The reason I think this is helpful is that those lucky enough to live at the beginning of such events have no historical or cultural baggage to obscure their forward view. When you live in the middle, or at the end of an era, you find yourself surrounded, sometimes suffocated, by all the good and bad that has come as a result. As a consequence, understanding the true contours of your surroundings or ultimate destination is almost impossible, your nose is stuck to the glass.

Question is, are we ourselves in the beginning of such an era, in the middle, or at an end? How would we even know?

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“60 is the new 30” - Transhuman Senior Fitness

by Hank Pellissier

Longevity and Brain Enhancement are the two primary ambitions of transhumanists, according to a survey conducted two years ago. This indicates that the “average transhumanist” is strongly motivated to keep his-or-her physical body and mental cognition in tip-top condition. These desires would be, it seems, even more emphasized in tranhumanists who were 55+ years old.

I am 62 – an age considered “old” by many – but I recently “resurrected my strength” using a combination of old-fashioned hard work + new-fangled technology. In only 4 months I became stronger than I’ve ever been in my life.

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Are AI-Doomsayers like Skeptical Theists? A Precis of the Argument

by John Danaher

Some of you may have noticed my recently-published paper on existential risk and artificial intelligence. The paper offers a somewhat critical perspective on the recent trend for AI-doomsaying among people like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. Of course, it doesn’t focus on their opinions; rather, it focuses on the work of the philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has written the most impressive analysis to date of the potential risks posed by superintelligent machines.

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Thoughts on Lauritzen’s “Stem Cells, Biotechnology, and Human Rights”

by John G. Messerly

Any reader of this blog knows that I am a transhumanist; I believe in using technology to overcome all human limitations. What follows is a summary of an article by Paul Lauritzen, a Professor Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic, Jesuit John Carroll University near Cleveland Ohio. I believe his argument worthless, and contrary to everything I believe in, but I will summarize it as best I can. As I proceed I will provide a few parenthetical comments, as well as a few critical remarks at the end.

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Social Security, Ten Years From Now

by Richard Eskow

For the Huffington Post’s 10th anniversary I was invited to predict what Social Security might look like 10 years from now. That future is filled with both possibility and shadowed by danger.

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Metchnikoff Day – in honor of the founder of gerontology – a chance to promote longevity

by Ilia Stambler

On May 15, 2015, we celebrate the 170th anniversary of the founder of gerontology, a foundational figure of modern immunology, aging and longevity science, and of modern medicine generally – Elie Metchnikoff (May 15, 1845 – July 15, 1916).

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When Enhancement Isn’t

by Kyle Munkittrick

Enhancement is weird. It seems objectively obvious what is better and what isn’t. But then context goes and screws everything up.

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Life: Inevitable or Accident?

by Rick Searle

Here’s the question: does the existence of life in the universe reflect something deep and fundamental or is it merely an accident and epiphenomenon? There’s an interesting new theory coming out of the field of biophysics that claims the cosmos is indeed built for life, and not just merely in the sense found in the so-called “anthropic principle” which states that just by being here we can assume that all of nature’s fundamental values must be friendly for complex organisms such as ourselves that are able to ask such questions. The new theory makes the claim that not just life, but life of ever growing complexity and intelligence is not just likely, but the inevitable result of the laws of nature.



The Problem of Personal Identity in Two Pages

by John G. Messerly

The problem – Is a person the kind of thing that can die on earth and be alive somewhere else? To understand this consider a thought experiment. If we make a perfect copy of you—complete with your thoughts and memories—is that copy really you or just a duplicate? (If you think the copy is you, then the waking up in heaven scenario is not problematic; if you think it’s just a copy, then the thing that wakes up in heaven isn’t you.)

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The Ethics of Robot Sex: Interview on Robot Overlordz Podcast

by John Danaher

I had the good fortune to be asked back on to the Robot Overlordz podcast this week. I am the guest on episode #163 during which I chat with the hosts (Mike Johnston and Matt Bolton) about the ethical, legal and social implications of sex robots. We also talk about related issues from the world of AI and futurism.



The Epistemic Costs of Superintelligence: Bostrom’s Treacherous Turn and Sceptical Theism

by John Danaher

An advanced artificial intelligence (a “superintelligence”) could pose a significant existential risk to humanity. Several research institutes have been set-up to address those risks. And there is an increasing number of academic publications analysing and evaluating their seriousness. Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies represents the apotheosis of this trend. In this article, I argue that in defending the credibility of AI risk, Bostrom makes an epistemic move that is analogous to one made by so-called sceptical theists in the debate about the existence of God. And while this analogy is interesting in its own right, what is more interesting is its potential implication. It has been repeatedly argued that sceptical theism has devastating effects on our beliefs and practices. Could it be that AI-doomsaying has similar effects? I argue that it could. Specifically, and somewhat paradoxically, I argue that it could lead to either a reductio of the doomsayers position, or an important and additional reason to join their cause. I use this paradox to suggest that the modal standards for argument in the superintelligence debate need to be addressed.

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Is the Anthropocene a Disaster or an Opportunity?

by Rick Searle

Recently the journal Nature published a paper arguing that the year in which the Anthropocene, the proposed geological era in which the collective actions of the human species started to trump other natural processes in terms of their impact, began in the year 1610 AD. If that year leaves you, like it did me, scratching your head and wondering what your missed while you dozed off in your 10th grade history class, don’t worry, because 1610 is a year in which nothing much happened at all. In fact, that’s why the author’s chose it.



In Rahm Emanuel’s “Embarrassing” Victory, a Warning for Democrats

by Richard Eskow

Despite the power of incumbency, the backing of President Obama, and an array of wealthy and powerful backers, Rahm Emanuel nevertheless became the first mayor in Chicago history to be forced into a runoff. Sure, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia’s defeat was a setback for the left, but Emanuel’s struggle to retain his office is a warning for politicians everywhere: Corporate Democrats are likely to find themselves on the defensive in 2016 and beyond.



Bitcoin and the Ontology of Money

by John Danaher

Money has long fascinated me, and not for the obvious reasons. Although I’d like to have more of it, my interest is largely philosophical. It is the ontology of money that has always disturbed me. Ever since I was a child, collecting old coins and hoarding my pocket money, I’ve wondered why it is that certain physical tokens can function as money and others cannot. What is money made from? What is it grounded in? Why do certain monetary systems fail and others succeed?



TPUK 2015 Election Announcement

by Amon Twyman

We have previously announced that the Transhumanist Party will be supporting an independent candidate in the UK national elections next month, and are now glad to announce that this will be a founding party member, Alexander Karran, in the seat of Liverpool Walton.



Psychopaths and Moral Blame: Empirical and Philosophical Issues

by John Danaher

They are glib and superficially charming. They have a grandiose sense of self worth. They are often pathological liars and routinely engage in acts of cunning and manipulation. If they do something wrong, they are without remorse.



Blockchain Thinking: The Brain as a DAC (Decentralized Autonomous Corporation)

by Melanie Swan

Blockchains are a new form of information technology that could have several important future applications. They could be an explosive operational venue for new kinds of autonomous agents like DACs, distributed autonomous corporations. A DAC is a corporation run without any human involvement through a set of business rules based in software code. It is called a ‘corporation’ because it typically engages in corporate operations like fundraising, providing services, and making profits for shareholders. Blockchains are a software protocol upon which digital cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run. 



Political Transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party

by Amon Twyman

Transhumanism has historically been an effectively apolitical movement, focussed on technological improvement of the human condition. While some political obstacles to that goal have been recognised, Transhumanists’ political views have traditionally covered a broad range, making the emergence of a unified Political Transhumanism seem highly problematic. A paradigm shift appears to have occurred in 2014, with the establishment of the Transhumanist Party in the USA by Zoltan Istvan. Subsequently a number of related groups have rapidly appeared around the world, in an entire new movement dedicated to the idea of Political Transhumanism, with the Transhumanist Party as its primary vehicle in any given country. 



Big-Bank Bad Guys Bully Democracy – And Blow It

by Richard Eskow

For so-called “masters of the universe,” Wall Street executives sure seem touchy about criticism. It seems they don’t like being painted as the bad guys. But if they don’t like being criticized, why do so many of them keep behaving like B-movie villains? That’s exactly what executives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America looked after an article appeared last week detailing their coordinated attempt to intimidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats who want to fix the mess on Wall Street.



The Sofalarity is Near

by Rick Searle

Many readers here have no doubt spent at least some time thinking about the Singularity, whether in a spirit of hope or fear, or perhaps more reasonably some admixture of both. For my part, though, I am much less worried about a coming Singularity than I am about a Sofalarity in which our ability to create realistic illusions of achievement and adventure convinces the majority of humans that reality isn’t really worth all the trouble after all. Let me run through the evidence of an approaching Sofalarity. I hope you’re sitting down… well… actually I hope you’re not.



Transhumanist Party membership open

by Amon Twyman

The Transhumanist Party is a new political organisation in the UK, part of a network of similar groups around the world, committed to positive social change through technology. Transhumanism is the idea that we must improve ourselves and society using the most effective tools available. To go beyond what we have been, in order to overcome the world’s problems and create a better future.



Atheism as Intellectual Snobbery?

by John G. Messerly

Just a few brief remarks about Emma Green’s recent in the Atlantic, “The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication.” Green says: “Theirs [atheists] is a subtle assertion: Believers aren’t educated or thoughtful enough to debunk God, and if they only knew more, rational evidence would surely offset faith.”



God, Immortality and the Futility of Life

by John Danaher

William Lane Craig has a pretty dispiriting take on the atheistic view of life: If there is no God, then man and the universe are doomed. Like prisoners condemned to death, we await our unavoidable execution. There is no God, and there is no immortality. And what is the consequence of this? It means that life itself is absurd. It means that the life we have is without ultimate significance, value or purpose. (Craig 2008, 72)



Should prospective parents have to apply for licences? An Ethical Debate

by John Danaher

Should prospective parents have to apply for parental licences? The argument seems obvious. Having children is a serious business. Negligent or irresponsible parents risk causing long-term harms to their offspring, harms that often have spillover effects on the rest of society. A licensing system should help us to filter out such parents. Therefore, a licensing system would benefit children and society at large. QED

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