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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Affiliate Scholar

Siegel @ Palenque Norte, Burning Man
August 26-29
Camp Soft Landing, Black Rock City, NV


Siegel @ Indiecade
October 9-12
Culver City, CA USA


Siegel @ Buddhist Geeks Conference
October 16-18
Boulder, Colorado


Siegel @ Science and Non-Duality
October 22-27
San Jose, CA USA


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




MULTIMEDIA: Affiliate Scholar Topics

Soylent Update Keto Version

Harming and Protecting Robots

Failing the Artificial Intelligence Test (w/ George Dvorsky)

Robot Torture

Soylent Experiment: First Impressions

Voluntary Cybernetic Enhancement

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

Soylent The Not People Food Alternative

Brain Zapping Concerns

Editing Memories With DARPA

Are Transhumanism and Libertarianism A Good Fit?

Who Wants To Be Ironman?

Implantable Technology - Pros and Cons

Genetic Modification Outside The Food Context

Suspended Animation - Now For Humans




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Affiliate Scholar Topics




Karlsen on God and the Benefits of Existence

by John Danaher

The paper tries to fuse traditional concerns about the problem of evil with recent work in population ethics. The result is an interesting, and somewhat novel, atheological argument. As is the case with every journal club, I will try to kick start the discussion by providing an overview of the paper’s main arguments, along with some questions you might like to ponder about its effectiveness.



Robots Are People, Too

by Richard Eskow

“This is an economic revolution,” a new online video says about automation. The premise of “Humans Need Not Apply” is that human work will soon be all but obsolete. “You may think we’ve been here before, but we haven’t,” says CGP Grey, the video’s creator. “This time is different.” The video has gone viral, with nearly two million YouTube views in one week. But is it true?



Are we morally obliged to eat some meat? (Part 1 and 2)

by John Danaher

I’ve recently been looking into the ethics of vegetarianism, partly because I’m not one myself and I’m interesting in questioning my position, and partly because it is an interesting philosophical issue in its own right. Earlier this summer I looked at Jeff McMahan’s critique of benign carnivorism. Since that piece was critical of the view I myself hold, I thought it might be worthwhile balancing things out by looking at an opposing view.



A Cure for Our Deflated Sense of The Future

by Rick Searle

There’s a condition I’ve noted among former hard-core science-fiction fans that for want of a better word I’ll call future-deflation. The condition consists of an air of disappointment and detachment with the present that emerges on account of the fact that the future one dreamed of in one’s youth has failed to materialize. It was a dream of what the 21st century would entail that was fostered by science-fiction novels, films and television shows, a dream that has not arrived, and will seemingly never arrive- at least within our lifetimes. I think I have a cure for it, or at least a strong preventative.



Intracortical Recording Devices

by Melanie Swan

A key future use of neural electrode technology envisioned for nanomedicine and cognitive enhancement is intracortical recording devices that would capture the output signals of multiple neurons that are related to a given activity, for example signals associated with movement, or the intent of movement.



Bostrom on Superintelligence (6): Motivation Selection Methods

by John Danaher

This is the sixth part in my series on Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. The series is covering those parts of the book that most interest me. This includes the sections setting out the basic argument for thinking that the creation of superintelligent AI could threaten human existence, and the proposed methods for dealing with that threat.



One Nation Under Siege: “Counterinsurgency Cops” in Ferguson – and on TV

by Richard Eskow

The transfer of used military equipment from the armed forces to police departments around the country has been accompanied, at least to a certain extent, by a shift in public thinking. The news media have played a critical part in that shift, both in its coverage and in what it chooses not to cover.



Are we heading for technological unemployment? An Argument

by John Danaher

We’re all familiar with the headlines by now: “Robots are going to steal our jobs”, “Automation will lead to joblessness”, and “AI will replace human labour”. It seems like more and more people are concerned about the possible impact of advanced technology on employment patterns. Last month, Lawrence Summers worried about it in the Wall Street Journal but thought maybe the government could solve the problem. Soon after, Vivek Wadhwa worried about it in the Washington Post, arguing that there was nothing the government could do. Over on the New York Times, Paul Krugman has been worrying about it for years.



Why archaeologists make better futurists than science-fiction writers

by Rick Searle

Human beings seem to have an innate need to predict the future. We’ve read the entrails of animals, thrown bones, tried to use the regularity or lack of it in the night sky as a projection of the future and omen of things to come, along with a thousand others kinds of divination few of us have ever heard of. This need to predict the future makes perfect sense for a creature whose knowledge bias is towards the present and the past. Survival means seeing enough ahead to avoid dangers, so that an animal that could successfully predict what was around the next corner could avoid being eaten or suffering famine.



“Running as Dems While Sounding Republican.” Hey, What Could Go Wrong?

by Richard Eskow

They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one Politico story certainly doesn’t make a campaign season. But if a recent article there is correct – if the Democratic Party’s strategy this year really is “Running as a Dem (while) sounding like a Republican” – then the party may be headed for a disaster of epic but eminently predictable proportions.



An Ethical Framework for the Use of Enhancement Drugs

by John Danaher

Debate about the merits of enhancement tends to pretty binary. There are some — generally called bioconservatives — who are opposed to it; and others — transhumanists, libertarians and the like — who embrace it wholeheartedly. Is there any hope for an intermediate approach? One that doesn’t fall into the extremes of reactionary reject or uncritical endorsement?



Bostrom on Superintelligence (5): Limiting an AI’s Capabilities

by John Danaher

This is the fifth part of my series on Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. So far in the series, we’ve covered why Bostrom thinks superintelligent AIs might pose an existential risk to human beings. We’ve done this by looking at some of his key claims about the nature of artificial intelligence (the orthogonality thesis and the instrumental convergence thesis); and at the structure of his existential risk argument.



Machine Ethics Interfaces

by Melanie Swan

Machine ethics is a term used in different ways. The basic use is in the sense of people attempting to instill some sort of human-centric ethics or morality in the machines we build like robots, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence (Wallach 2010) so that machines do not harm humans either maliciously or unintentionally.



The First Machine War and the Lessons of Mortality

by Rick Searle

I just finished a thrilling little book about the first machine war. The author writes of a war set off by a terrorist attack where the very speed of machines being put into action,and the near light speed of telecommunications whipping up public opinion to do something now, drives countries into a world war. In his vision whole new theaters of war, amounting to fourth and fifth dimensions, have been invented. Amid a storm of steel huge hulking machines roam across the landscape and literally shred human beings in their path to pieces. Low flying avions fill the sky taking out individual targets or help calibrate precision attacks from incredible distances beyond. Wireless communications connect soldiers and machine together in a kind of world-net…



Gaza Is a Transhumanist Issue!

by Benjamin Abbott

Transhumanists as a rule may prefer to contemplate implants and genetic engineering, but few if any violations of morphological freedom exceed being torn to pieces by shrapnel or dashed against concrete by an overpressure wave. In this piece I argue that the settler-colonial violence in occupied Palestine relates to core aspects of modernity and demands futurist attention both emotionally and intellectually.



As Congress Adjourns, GOP Declares “Omission Accomplished”

by Richard Eskow

Our long national nightmare is over – for the moment. Congress has adjourned for summer recess after a session that can safely be described as “historic,” both for its historic lack of accomplishment and the historically low regard in which it is now held by the public.



Bostrom on Superintelligence (4): Malignant Failure Modes

by John Danaher

This is the fourth post of my series on Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. In the previous post, I started my discussion of Bostrom’s argument for an AI doomsday scenario. Today, I continue this discussion by looking at another criticism of that argument, along with Bostrom’s response.



Bostrom on Superintelligence (3): Doom and the Treacherous Turn

by John Danaher

In the first two entries, I looked at some of Bostrom’s conceptual claims about the nature of agency, and the possibility of superintelligent agents pursuing goals that may be inimical to human interests. I now move on to see how these conceptual claims feed into Bostrom’s case for an AI doomsday scenario.



Bostrom on Superintelligence (2): The Instrumental Convergence Thesis

by John Danaher

This is the second post in my series on Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. In the previous post, I looked at Bostrom’s defence of the orthogonality thesis. This thesis claimed that pretty much any level of intelligence — when “intelligence” is understood as skill at means-end reasoning — is compatible with pretty much any (final) goal. Thus, an artificial agent could have a very high level of intelligence, and nevertheless use that intelligence to pursue very odd final goals, including goals that are inimical to the survival of human beings. In other words, there is no guarantee that high levels of intelligence among AIs will lead to a better world for us.



Bostrom on Superintelligence (1): The Orthogonality Thesis

by John Danaher

In this entry, I take a look at Bostrom’s orthogonality thesis. As we shall see, this thesis is central to his claim that superintelligent AIs could pose profound existential risks to human beings. But what does the thesis mean and how plausible is it?



Sherlock Holmes as Cyborg and the Future of Retail

by Rick Searle

Lately, I’ve been enjoying reruns of the relatively new BBC series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which imagines Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective in our 21st century world. The thing I really enjoy about the show is that it’s the first time I can recall that anyone has managed to make Sherlock Holmes funny without at the same time undermining the whole premise of a character whose purely logical style of thinking make him seem more a robot than a human being.



Beauty Is Skin-deep—But That’s Where Genetic Engineering Is Going Next

by Ted Chu

A Korean woman was on the verge of divorce because her husband no longer found her attractive and was having an affair. Nothing worked in her efforts to save the marriage and as a last resort she underwent cosmetic surgery. The result was so dramatic and her son didn’t recognize her when she returned home.



Chiding CEOs at Walgreens and Other Corporate Defectors

by Richard Eskow

Walgreens is the pharmacy that, at least according to its website, can be found “at the corner of Happy & Healthy.” If its executives have their way, however, it may soon be found near the intersection of Ziegelackerstrasse and Untermattweg in Bern, Switzerland. By acquiring the much smaller Swiss company that is located near that corner, the American company can dodge millions in American taxes.



The Sad Passing of a Positive Futurist

I was just informed that Dick Pelletier, one the IEET’s most beloved writers, passed away this evening from Stage 5 Parkinson’s Disease. I have worked with Dick for the past two years and he taught me more about the next step in human evolution than most doctors and professors I have met. His Positive Futurist stance on humanity and mind will continue to inspire us all.

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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.



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”.



Feminism and the Basic Income (Part Two)

by John Danaher

This is the second part of my series on feminism and the basic income. In part one, I looked at the possible effects of an unconditional basic income (UBI) on women. I also looked at a variety of feminist arguments for and against the UBI. The arguments focused on the impact of the UBI on economic independence, freedom of choice, the value of unpaid work, and women’s labour market participation.



Feminism and the Basic Income (Part One)

by John Danaher

The introduction of an unconditional basic income (UBI) is often touted as a positive step in terms of freedom, well-being and social justice. That’s certainly the view of people like Philippe Van Parijs and Karl Widerquist, both of whose arguments for the UBI I covered in my two most recent posts. But could there be other less progressive effects arising from its introduction?



Widerquist on Freedom and the Basic Income

by John Danaher

This post is part of an ongoing series I’m doing on the unconditional basic income (UBI). The UBI is an income grant payable to a defined group of people (e.g. citizens, or adults, or everyone) within a defined geo-political space. The income grant could be set at various levels, with most proponents thinking it should be at or above subsistence level, or at least at the maximum that is affordable in a given society. In my most recent post, I looked at Van Parijs’s famous defence of the UBI. Today, I look at Widerquist’s critique of Parijs, as well as his own preferred justification for the UBI.



Disabled Americans: Pawns in a Larger Social Security Game?

by Richard Eskow

William Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal about a Republican senator’s plans to force a confrontation on government disability benefits. Though Mr. Galston doesn’t seem to see it this way, it sounds as if Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to hold benefits for disabled Americans hostage in order to force Social Security cuts on everyone.

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