There is no doubt anymore that informational science and technologies are growing at an exponential pace. As a result, many are beginning to use those technologies to augment and enhance their own biological substrate. It is the first time in history where there is now a growing population of cyborgs whom live among us.
Having an artificial intelligence (AI) translate foreign languages for you is becoming a common occurrence for most people. While universal translators are getting closer to the market by each year, there’s one other form of communication which AI is aiming to dominate as well – lip reading!
For the first time in a quarter-century, we’re about to see a vacuum of political and intellectual leadership in the Democratic Party. An entire generation of leaders — including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill and Hillary Clinton — will be leaving the political stage. With them will go an entire infrastructure of policy advisers, political strategists, associates, friends, and hangers-on.
So, literally overnight, we entered the stage of the great normalization. We’ve gone from the almost universal belief among the elites, media and a large number of the American public that electing Trump would be a disaster for the country, the economy, our liberty to an apparent shrug of the shoulders and sycophantic search for advantage in the new order.
As Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency, Americans must learn to distinguish the ways he is uniquely terrible from the ways in which he is not so terribly unique — except as a matter of degree. His extreme behavior shouldn’t be “normalized,” to use the year’s newest word. But neither should the lies and deceptions of his more “respectable” colleagues.
Since its inception, the field of existential risk studies has recognized “bad governance” as an important factor that could modulate overall existential risk — or constitute an existential risk in its own right, if such governance were to gain global control.
Like many others, I am still absorbing the shock of Trump’s victory in the presidential election. For the last month I had been on a holding pattern on the blog in the remote chance the pundits and pollsters had gotten this election terribly wrong. They have. Rather than having elected Hillary Clinton who would have preserved the status quo with all its flaws, but also its protections, a large portion of the electorate has chosen to blow up the system and take a dangerous, potentially dystopian turn.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, various class-struggle leftists have been emphasizing neoliberalism as the culprit and highlighting the plight of the white working class. Proponents of these analyses exhort us to organize with the white working class for economic justice as a key component of antiracism.
The discourse of transhumanism is notorious for its liberal appeal to ‘enhancement’: ‘physical enhancement’, ‘cognitive enhancement’, ‘moral enhancement’, etc. Much if not most of the discussion is speculative – but in any case, it is aspirational.
If you ever had the opportunity, would you have sex with a robot? Keep in mind, when I reference robots, I’m not thinking about completely mechanized machines, with sharp ridges and gears. Rather, these robots would be the culmination of years of research in the fields of soft robotics, synthetic skin and organ printing, and artificial intelligence (AI). In other words, unless you were to cut them open, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate them from actual human beings
My last post discussed public opposition to “Building a Better Human With Science.” People are generally skeptical of both futuristic technologies as well the scientists developing them. It also turns out that future technologies are disproportionately opposed by religious persons, and most accepted by the least religious. This confirms my experience teaching transhumanism in college classes over the decades—a religious worldview is a good predictor of opposition to new technologies.
A recent piece New York Times article, “Building a Better Human With Science? The Public Says, No Thanks,” reports on a new survey by the Pew Research Center which show public skepticism about improving the physical and intellectual life of the human species. As reported, “Americans aren’t very enthusiastic about using science to enhance the human species. Instead, many find it rather creepy.”
It’s been a while since I wrote something about theism and morality. There was a time when I couldn’t go more than two weeks without delving into the latest paper on divine command theory and moral realism. More recently I seem to have grown disillusioned with that particular philosophical joy ride. But last week Erik Wielenberg’s new paper ‘Euthyphro and Moral Realism: A Reply to Harrison’ managed to cross my transom. I decided I should read it.
Stephen Hawking summed up the thinking of many of the researchers and funders behind artificial intelligence this week when he launched the new Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at Cambridge by claiming that AI is “either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity.”
Access instead of Ownership
One of the most radical and potentially disruptive ideas for the near-term blockchain financial services market is Securities as a Service. Consider the music industry, where in the past, it was quite normal to purchase and own records and CDs, but now music is often accessed through digital media services like Spotify. There is access to music, but not much thought of ownership. “Listening to music” is the consumable asset, which is priced per network models for its access and consumption.
For the past two years, Zoltan Istvan has been campaigning for the US presidency on the Transhumanist Party, a largely one-man show which nevertheless remains faithful to the basic tenets of transhumanism. Now suppose he won. Top of his policy agenda had been to ensure the immortality of all Americans. But even Zoltan realized that this would entail quite big changes in how the state and society function. So, shortly after being elected president, he decides to hold a national referendum on the matter.
As William Gibson has famously pointed out, the job of the science fiction writer is not to predict the future but to construct one plausible version of it from the pieces already laying around. I assume that Malka Older was trying to do this deliberately low key Gibsonian thing with her novel Infomacracy, but given the bizarre nature of this current election cycle she instead, and remarkably, ended up anticipating not merely many of its real or feared events, but even ended her novel on the same note of exhaustion and exasperation and even dread resulting from the perceived failures of representative democracy now expressed by many among the elites, and from another the other angle, the young.
Standing as we are with our nose so tightly pressed against the glass, it’s impossible to know what exactly the current, crazy presidential election will mean, not just for American, democracy, but for the future of democracy itself. Of course, much of this depends on the actual outcome of the election, when the American public will either chose to cling to a system full of malware, corrupted and buggy, yet still functional, or risk everything on a hard reboot. This would include the risk that we might never be able to reset the clock to the time before we had plunged over the abyss and restore an order that while outdated, ill-designed, and running up against the limits of both still managed to do the job.
Fellows Kevin LaGrandeur and John Danaher were interviewed by Future Left about the potential impact of automation and computerization on the future of the American workforce. Their comments are included in an initiative to get theAmerican presidential to address this issue in their platforms, and their comments are also included in an article here.
I use pen and paper to do most of my serious thinking. Whether it is outlining blogposts or academic papers, taking notes or constructing arguments, I pretty much always take out my trusty A4 pad and pen when I run into a cognitive trough. To be sure, I often mull ideas over in my head for a long time beforehand, but when I want to move beyond my muddled and incoherent thoughts, I will grab for my pen and paper. I am sure that many of you do the same. There is something cognitively different about thinking outside your head: creating an external representation of your thoughts reveals their strengths and weaknesses in a way that internal dialogue never can.
Less than a month ago, scientists confirmed the existence of a rocky planet roughly 1.3 times the mass of Earth named “Proxima b.” Although it orbits its star, Proxima Centauri, at about 5 percent the distance that currently separates Earth and our sun, Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf that is much less hot and luminous than our star.
There is a famous story about an encounter between Henry Ford II (CEO of Ford Motors) and Walter Reuther (head of the United Automobile Workers Union). Ford was showing Reuther around his factory, proudly displaying all the new automating technologies he had introduced to replace human workers. Ford gloated, asking Reuther ‘How are you going to get those robots to pay union dues?’. Reuther responded with equal glee ‘Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?’.