With bitcoin nearly doubling in value in the last few weeks (surpassing USD $400 on November 9, 2013 and reaching USD $937 on November 29, 2013) (see this chart in Figure 1 and the real-time exchange rate), the question is whether it is just another inflationary virtual currency bubble like WOW gold and Second Life Lindens, or a trend that will endure.
There are a lot of people out there who would prefer not to die. There are also many people trying to make this a reality by working seriously on the science of life extension. The goal, it would seem, is to reverse (or at least halt) the aging process, and allow us to live indefinitely. Let’s call the people who share this goal the “extensionists”.
I have previously based my own ethical approach to interactions with other species on Jeremy Bentham’s derivation of rights from the ability to suffer. Bentham was a British philosopher and the founder of utilitarian philosophy (utilitarianism is “a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering.”). As Bentham put it, “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
There has been some ink spilt lately at the IEET over a new movement that goes by the Tolkienesque name, I kid you not, of the dark enlightenment, also called neo-reactionaries. Khannea Suntzu has looked at the movement from the standpoint of American collapse and David Brin within the context of a rising oligarchic neo-feudalism.
In this, the final, part we will do two further things. First, we will step back from the particular arguments for and against the legitimacy of mental illness, and focus on Neil Pickering’s meta-philosophical diagnosis of the problems inherent in the debate. Then, having sharpened our appreciation for the meta-philosophical issues, we will consider what is probably the most recent and widely-discussed attempt to define “illness” in such a way that it (properly) includes mental illnesses: Jerome Wakefield’s Harmful Dysfunction analysis.
If someone on the street stopped and asked you what you thought was the meaning behind Oscar Wilde’s novel A Picture of Dorian Grey you’d probably blurt out, like the rest of us, that it had something to do with a frightening portrait, the dangers of pursuing immortality, and, if one remembered vague details about Wilde’s life, you might bring up the fact that it must have gotten him into a lot of trouble on account of its homoeroticism.
This is the second post in a brief series looking at the philosophy of mental illness. As noted in part one, some people are suspicious about the concept of mental “illness”. To call something an illness is to deem it worthy of medical scrutiny and treatment. This makes sense — so they argue — when dealing with things like broken bones, viruses, clotted arteries, bacterial infections, cancerous tumours and so forth. They all involve clear, objectively assessable physical effects and causes. Mental illness is not the same: it involves more nebulous, less tractable effects and causes, ones that are not always open to the same level of objective assessment.
Last week was my oldest daughter’s 5th birthday in my mind the next “big” birthday after the always special year one. I decided on a geology themed day one of whose components were her, me and my younger daughter who’s 3 taking a trip to a local limestone cave that holds walk through tours.
It may be a push, but I think it is fair to say that no branch of modern medicine faces the same existential challenges as psychiatry. To give a sense of the problem, a quick browse through Amazon reveals aplethoraofbooks, many published within the past ten years, that either directly challenge the legitimacy of mental illness, call into question the medicalisation of the mind, or dispute the unholy alliance between “pharma” and psychiatry.
When our most precious and hard fought for successes give rise to yet more challenges life is revealing its Sisyphean character. We work as hard as we can to roll a rock up a hill only to have it crush us on the way down. The stones that threatens us this time are two of our global civilization’s greatest successes- the fact that children born are now very likely to live into old age and the fact that we have stretched out this old age itself so that many, many more people are living into ages where in the past the vast majority of their peers would be dead. These two demographic revolutions when combined form the basis of what I am calling the Longevity Crisis. Let’s take infant mortality first.
Life expectancy increased dramatically over the course of the 20th century. In the UK and US — to take two obvious examples — it increased by approximately 30 years. Further increases are projected in the future. In addition to this, advances in medical technology are hoped by many, and demanded by some, to dramatically increase lifespan (a subtly different concept from life expectancy) in the coming century. It may soon come to pass that lifespans of 120 to 150 years are no longer confined to the realms of science fiction.
Percy’s epic poem, Prometheus Unbound is seldom read today while his wife’s novel, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus has become so well known that her monster graces the boxes of children’s cereal, and became the fodder from one of the funniest movies of the 20th century.
The world’s first International Longevity Day took place on or around October 1, in over 30 countries! These were many small steps on the great road to healthy longevity for all through support of longevity research!
This is a translation of a presentation by the Association Française Transhumaniste - Technoprog! on “What is Transhumanism today in France.” Technoprog! encourages the development of and promotes reflection on technologies that improve and greatly extend the life of individuals and of mankind. In our opinion, transhumanism should ensure that enhancement technologies are not restricted to a minority of the wealthy and that citizens are alerted to possible abuses of technology, so that an informed citizenry can master the technology and not be controlled by it.
As the Bob Dylan song says: “Things should start to get interesting right about now.” You may think they’re already interesting—what with government closings, threats of a debt default, and extremist rhetoric under the Capitol Dome—but chances are we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In twelve weeks or so our new system of government-by-crisis will resume its regularly scheduled programming: more threats, more confrontations, and even more extreme rhetoric.
Human beings have long performed sexual acts with artifacts. Ancient religious rituals oftentimes involved the performance of sexual acts with statues, and down through the ages a vast array of devices for sexual stimulation and gratification have been created. Little wonder then that a perennial goal among roboticists and AI experts has been the creation of sex robots (“sexbots”): robots from whom we can receive sexual gratification, and with whom we may even be able achieve an emotional connection.
Historically, the possibility of true meaning in life has been tied to the religious worldview. That is to say: meaning has only been thought possible if there is a supernatural realm in which we can achieve eternal salvation, or from which a divine being bestows meaning upon our mortal human lives. With their rejection of supernaturalism, and its associated religious doctrines, naturalists are forced to abandon this conception of meaning.
Though still decidedly secondary, the dream of transcending biological sex and established gender norms occupies a key place transhumanist in thought. Transhumanists extoll transgender people as prescient pioneers of morphological freedom and technological enhancement. This article explores the problem of gender - yes, it is a problem - in relation to feminist theory and proposed transhumanist solutions. I simultaneously critique and embrace visions of transcendence.
For the consideration of which beings qualify as persons, I suggest that the bar be set higher than that of mere sentience: a conscious life; intelligence; and the capability of abstract thought — that is, the process of using one’s mind to consider something carefully. ... A Hierarchy of Exclusion is a tool whose very name tells us that it is designed to keep some out of a privileged status for moral consideration; but our purpose here is inclusion. So let’s upend Card’s hierarchy.
It is interesting at least to wonder what the scientific revolution would have looked like had it occurred somewhere other than in the West. What latent goals and assumptions might the systematic and empirical study of nature have had if it had arisen somewhere in what were at the time more technologically and scientifically advanced civilizations: in the lands of Islam, in Confucian-Daoist-Buddhist China, in the Hindu lands of southern India?
Memory Detection Tests (MDTs) are a general class of psychophysiological tests that can be used to determine whether someone remembers a particular fact or datum. The P300 MDT is a type of MDT that relies on a presumed correlation between the presence of a detectable neural signal (the P300 “brainwave”) in a test subject, and the recognition of those facts in the subject’s mind.
By far the most predominant criticism made against indefinite longevity is overpopulation. It is the first “potential problem” that comes to mind. But fortunately it seems that halting the global mortality rate would not cause an immediate drastic increase in global population; in fact, if the mortality rate dropped to zero tomorrow then the doubling rate for the global population would only be increased by a factor of 1.75 , which is smaller than the population growth rate during the post-WWII baby-boom.
A new study says that nearly half of all American jobs may soon be performed by robots. And the White House has just announced the formation of “the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee ‘2.0,’” which it describes as “part of a continuing effort to maintain U.S.leadership in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America’s global competitiveness.”
Rebecca Rosen over at the Atlantic has a fascinating recent article about how the MIT Media Lab is using science-fiction to help technologists think through the process of design. Not merely to think up new gadgets, but to think iteratively and consciously about the technologies they are creating to try and prevent negative implications from occurring before a technology is up and running. A fascinating idea that get us beyond the endless dichotomy of those who call for relinquishment and those urging, risks be damned, full-steam ahead.
I would like to address what I consider to be three common criticisms against the desirability and ethicacy of life-extension I come across all too often – three specters of immortality, if you will. These will be Overpopulation (the criticism that widely-available life-extension therapies will cause unmanageable overpopulation), Naturality (the criticism that life-extension if wrong because it is unnatural), and Selfishness (the criticism that life-extension researchers, activists and supporters are motivated by a desire to increase their own, personal lifespans than by a desire to decrease involuntary suffering in the world at large).
What especially distinguishes human beings from other animals has been the degree to which they seek out and invent ways to leverage the basics of their biology to reach ever more complex levels of thought and action. Early human beings leveraged their fragile and limited bodies with tools including fire, leveraged their own natural psychology using naturally occurring drugs and religious rituals and used music to obtain a more emotional connection with one another and the world.
The Syrian civil war has already caused over 100,000 deaths. As tragic as this is, it is miniscule compared to the massive and potentially permanent global destruction that could come from the gigaton gorilla lurking in the background: nuclear war between the United States and Russia. While the U.S. and Russia find themselves on opposite sides in Syria, their diplomacy over Syria's chemical weapons could help build the trust and confidence needed to reduce the risk of nuclear war.