The fact that this even needs to be said demonstrates that there’s been a breakdown in the democratic process, but we’ll say it anyway: Our number one priority should be protecting the planet for future generations. That said, green energy makes sense even if we base our thinking on economic considerations alone.
Here is a brief summary of a piece by B.C. Johnson, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?” It offers a devastating critique of the possibility that there is an all powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god. Are there any good excuses for someone (or a god) not saving a baby from a burning house if they had the power to do so? It will not do to say the baby will go to heaven, since one suffers by burning to death.
Are there trends in evolution — cosmic, biological, and cultural — that support the claim that life is meaningful, or is becoming meaningful, or is becoming increasingly meaningful? Perhaps there is a progressive direction to evolution, perhaps the meaningful eschatology of the universe will gradually unfold as we evolve, and perhaps we can articulate a cosmic vision to describe this unfolding — or perhaps not.
There is ample opportunity to explore blockchains as a new form of information technology, including what consensus models as a core feature might mean and enable. A key question is “What is consensus-derived information?” that is, what are its properties and benefits vis-à-vis other kinds of information? Is consensus-derived information a different kind or form of information?
History is littered with dead gods. The Greek and Roman gods, and thousands of others have perished. Yet Allah, Yahweh, Krishna and a few more survive. But will belief in the gods endure? It will not. Our descendents will be too advanced to share such primitive beliefs.
Today’s American right is burdened with a highly specialized and hyper-amplified sense of outrage. That outrage was triggered during this week’s State of the Union speech, especially by the president’s off-the-cuff response to a group of Republicans who sarcastically applauded the line, “I have no more campaigns to run.”
Cosmic evolution gave birth to our sun and planet; chemical evolution brought forth atoms, molecules and cells; biological evolution led to us. The process ran itself, there was no intelligent designer. But consciousness emerged, we are here, and within limits we are free. And yet we will die.
Looked at in the longer historical perspective we have already achieved something our ancestors would consider superlongevity. In the UK life expectancy at birth averaged around 37 in 1700. It is roughly 81 today. The extent to which this is a reflection of decreased child mortality versus an increase in the survival rate of the elderly I’ll get to a little later, but for now, just try to get your head around the fact that we have managed to nearly double the life expectancy of human beings in a little over two centuries.
Here it was again. This holiday weekend we saw a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we heard very little about who he really was – a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. Dr. King’s life and legacy stand as a challenge to an entrenched society of privilege and injustice. Here are nine quotes that reflect that legacy.
The future world could be one of multi-species intelligence. The possibility space could include “classic” humans, enhanced humans, digital mindfile uploads, and many forms of artificial intelligence: deep learning neural nets, machine learning algorithms, blockchain-based DACs (distributed autonomous organizations), and whole-brain software emulations.
Consider your smartphone for a moment. It provides you with access to a cornucopia of information. Some of it is general, stored on publicly accessible internet sites, and capable of being called up to resolve any pub debate one might be having (how many U.S. presidents have been assassinated? or how many times have Brazil won the World Cup?). Some of it is more personal, and includes a comprehensive databank of all emails and text message conversations you have had, your calendar appointments, the number of steps you have taken on any given day, books read, films watched, calories consumed and so forth.
Transhumanism is: The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities … transhumanism is a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase.1
The Middle East has often been perceived as a constantly belligerent area, where human life has been held cheap, since the time of despots and tribal wars well to the present. Yet, in fact, the Middle East would be more appropriately seen as a cradle of civilization, where many ideas of human development had their roots, where many technological and scientific concepts were first formulated, and where the goals of preserving and extending human life, even ideas of radically extended longevity, have been pronounced among the earliest.
The advent of blockchain technology has prompted the questioning of many concepts that have been taken for granted for years such as money, currency, markets, economics, politics, citizenship, governance, authority, and self-determination.
Developments with the new Transhumanist Party (TP) in Europe have been very rapid in the last few days. A couple of days after Christmas, the only TP to exist was in the USA. Now, only two weeks later, there are groups working toward registered parties in seven European countries, an emerging umbrella organisation for the European parties, and another group in Australia for good measure. You can find details of all these groups at http://transhumanistparty.eu.
“Americans don’t want angry, defensive figures running for president,” Democratic operative Will Marshall told McClatchy’s David Lightman this week. But who, precisely, is angry and defensive? As the pushback to Wall Street’s influence on government grows stronger, it is the banking industry’s supporters who sound enraged. And as economic populism gains traction in Democratic circles, it is corporate Democrats like Marshall who find themselves increasingly on the defensive.
Some defend the idea that the meaning of life depends on religion. In the next few days I will summarize what a few of these thinkers have to say. My brief responses are in [brackets.] For more thorough replies see my recent book.
Back in 1973, Bernard Williams published an article about the desirability of immortality. The article was entitled “The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality”. The article used the story of Elina Makropulos — from Janacek’s opera The Makropulos Affair — to argue that immortality would not be desirable. According to the story, Elina Makropulos is given the elixir of life by her father. The elixir allows Elina to live for three hundred years at her current biological age. After this period has elapsed, she has to choose whether to take the elixir again and live for another three hundred. She takes it once, lives her three hundred years, and then chooses to die rather than live another three hundred. Why? Because she has become bored with her existence.
Looked at in a certain light, Adrian Hon’s History of the Future in 100 Objects can be seen as giving us a window into a fictionalized version of an intermediate technological stage we may be entering. It is the period when the gains in artificial intelligence are clearly happening, but they have yet to completely replace human intelligence. The question if it AI ever will actually replace us is not of interest to me here. It certainly won’t be tomorrow, and technological prediction beyond a certain limited horizon is a fool’s game.
If Democrats don’t make the right choice now, they may not have the chance to make economic policy – not for a long time to come. There’s been a lot of economic recovery talk lately, but most people will probably tell you that things still aren’t that great. Most Americans – 99 percent of them or so – are still struggling. Economic inequality is soaring, social mobility is declining, earnings at most income levels are stagnant or falling, and the percentage of working-age Americans who are actually working is at a record low.
I’ve met Erik Parens twice; he seems like a thoroughly nice fellow. I say this because I’ve just been reading his latest book Shaping Our Selves: On Technology, Flourishing and a Habit of Thinking, and it is noticeable how much of his personality shines through in the book. Indeed, the book opens with a revealing memoir of Parens’s personal life and experiences in bioethics, specifically in the enhancement debate. What’s more, Parens’s frustrations with the limiting and binary nature of much philosophical debate is apparent throughout his book.
It’s hard to get your head around the idea of a humble prophet. Picturing Jeremiah screaming to the Israelites that the wrath of God is upon them and then adding “at least I think so, but I could be wrong…” or some utopian claiming the millenium is near, but then following it up with “then again this is just one man’s opinion…” would be the best kind of ridiculous- seemingly so out of character to be both shocking and refreshing.
The philosophy of complexity is developing as a field of philosophical inquiry to accompany, support, and question advances in the science of complex systems. This is warranted given that the issues surfaced by science findings signal a full slate of philosophical questions in the three main areas of ontology (existence), epistemology (knowledge), and axiology (valorization and ethics).
I have recently been working my way through some of the arguments in Derk Pereboom’s book Free Will, Agency and Meaning in Life. The book presents the most thorough case for hard incompatibilism of which I am aware. Hard incompatibilism is the view that free will is not compatible with causal determinism, and, what’s more, probably doesn’t even exist. In previous entries, I’ve looked at Pereboom’s critique of non-compatibilist theories of free will. In this post, I want to look at his famous argument against compatibilism.
The term “libertarianism” is used in two senses in philosophical circles. The first, and perhaps more famous sense, is as a name for a family of political theories that prioritise individual freedom; the second, and perhaps less famous (except among the cognoscenti), is as a specific view on the nature of free will. It is the latter sense that concerns me in this post.
What makes us free, if we are free? In other words, what conditions must be satisfied in order for us to say of any particular agent that he/she has free will or doesn’t? This is something that philosophers have long debated. Indeed, the free will debate is almost nauseating in its persistence and intricacy.
(This is the unedited version of my article which appeared in Salon, December 21, 2014.) Should you believe in a God? Not according to most academic philosophers. A comprehensive survey revealed that only about 14% of English-speaking professional philosophers are theists. As for what little religious belief remains among their colleagues, most professional philosophers regard it as a strange aberration among otherwise intelligent people. Among scientists the situation is much the same. Surveys of the members of the national academy of sciences, comprised of the most prestigious scientists in the world, show that religious belief among them is practically non-existent, about 7%.
Bergson claims that free will exists. It occurs in moments when a living being experiences duration, which is tuning into the internal sense of an experience, and a freely-determined action flows from this state. His reasoning is that “if duration is heterogeneous (if we are tuned into the internal sense of experience), the relation of the psychic state to act is unique, and the act is rightly judged free.