Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Affiliate Scholar



MULTIMEDIA: Affiliate Scholar Topics

Will we become posthuman?

The Quantified Self with Anders Sandberg

Moral Enhancement with Andres Sandberg

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

David Gunkel on Robots and Cyborgs

Rachel O’Dwyer on Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Digital Commons

Karen Levy on the Rise of Intimate Surveillance

Brett Frischmann on Reverse Turing Tests and Machine-like Humans

Danaher Interview on Robot Overlordz Podcast about Algocracy

Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Deborah Lupton on the Quantified Self

Algocracy and Transhuamnism Podcast: Hannah Maslen on the Ethics of Neurointerventions

Evan Selinger on Algorithmic Outsourcing and the Value of Privacy

Algocracy: Opportunities and Risks (videocast with Adam Ford)

The Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Episode 3

The Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Episode 2




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Affiliate Scholar Topics




Pushing Humans off the Loop: Automation and the Unsustainability Problem

by John Danaher

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?’.



Is Robust Moral Realism a kind of Religious Belief?

by John Danaher

Robust moral realism is the view that moral facts exist, but that they are not reducible to non-moral or natural facts. According to the robust realist, when I say something like ‘It is morally wrong to torture an innocent child for fun’, I am saying something that is true, but whose truth is not reducible to the non-moral properties of torture or children. Robust moral realism has become surprisingly popular in recent years, with philosophers like Derek Parfit, David Enoch, Erik Wielenberg and Russell Shafer-Landau all defending versions of it.



Competitive Cognitive Artifacts and the Demise of Humanity: A Philosophical Analysis

by John Danaher

David Krakauer seems like an interesting guy. He is the president of the Santa Fe institute in New Mexico, a complexity scientist and evolutionary theorist, with a noticeable interest in artificial intelligence and technology. I first encountered his work — as many recently did — via Sam Harris’s podcast. In the podcast he articulated some concerns he has about the development of artificial intelligence, concerns which he also set out in a recent (and short) article for the online magazine Nautilus.



Will human enhancement cause problems for interpersonal communication?

by John Danaher

China Mieville’s novel Embassytown is a challenging and provocative work of science fiction. It is set in Embassytown, a colonial outpost of the human-run Bremen empire, located on Arieka, a planet on the edge of the known universe. The native alien race are known as the Ariekei and they have an unusual language. They have two speaking orifices and as a result speak two words at the same time.



Computers and Law Special Edition on Algorithmic Governance

by John Danaher

As part of the Algocracy and Transhumanism project I am running, myself and my colleague Dr. Rónán Kennedy put together a special edition of the journal/magazine Computers and Law on the topic of algorithmic governance. It consists of a diverse range of articles on the increasingly prominent role of algorithms in decision-making, and the implications this has for the law. The special edition arose from a workshop we held on the topic back in March 2016.



Decadent Europe’s Islamist Dystopia

by Rick Searle

Sometimes I get the feeling that the West really is intellectually and spiritually bankrupt. I take my cue here not from watching Eurovision or anything like its American equivalent, but from the fact that, despite how radically different our circumstance is from our predecessors, we can’t seem to get beyond political ideas that have been banging around since the 19th century. Instead of coming up with genuine alternatives we rebrand antique ideas. After all, isn’t “fully automated luxury communism” really just a technophilic version of communism which hopes to shed all association with breadlines or statues of strapping workers with hammers in their hands? Let’s just call the thing Marxism and get it the hell over with.



Defining the Blockchain Economy: What is Decentralized Finance?

by Melanie Swan

The aim of this article is to explore the intersection of blockchain technology and finance from a practical, theoretical, and conceptual standpoint.



IEET Affiliate Scholar Franco Cortese Published New Paper

IEET Affiliate Scholar Franco Cortese has published a new paper in the August Issue of Rejuvenation Research with co-author Dr. Giovanni Santostasi of Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

Full Story...
Link to Rejuvenation Research



IEET Affiliated Scholar Nikola Danaylov Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for Singularity1on1

Singularity 1on1 is an experiment in both podcasting and creative infopreneurship; an opportunity for real growth - both for you and for me. An invitation to challenge me, you and our friends. And a gift of something non-material, something you cannot touch but can be powerfully touched by none-the-less. Something I cannot mail to you right after you press the ‘donate’ button. But something you can choose to receive and carry in your heart. [Just like all truly precious gifts are.]

Full Story...



IEET Affiliate Scholar Franco Cortese appointed an Affiliated Researcher of the BGRF

The Biogerontology Research Foundation (BGRF), a UK-based charity founded to support ageing research and address the challenges of a rapidly ageing population, announces the appointment of Franco Cortese as a new Affiliated Researcher of the BGRF.

Full Story...



Who knows best? Personal Happiness and the Search for a Good Life

by John Danaher

I would like to be happier. I would like to live a good life. But I often get it wrong. Once upon a time I thought that getting a PhD would make me happy. It didn’t. It made me painfully aware of my own ignorance and more anxious about the future. Another time I thought that going on holidays to Spain for a week would make me happy: what could be better than a week relaxing in the sunshine, without a care in the world? Surely it would be just the balm that my overactive mind needed? But it didn’t make me happy either. It was too hot and I quickly got bored. By the end of the week I was itching to get home.



IEET Affiliate Scholar Roland Benedikter et al. Publish New Article on Head-Transplanting

This article discusses the philosophical implications and potential social consequences of two experimental – and at the present moment still widely speculative – topics at the intersection between scientific and medical advances, the human body, the human mind, and the globalized health care sector.

Full Story...
Link to Addleton Academic Publisher



Phenomenological Coupling, Augmented Reality and the Extended Mind

by John Danaher

Contrast these two scenarios. First, I’m in the supermarket. I want to remember what I need to buy but I’m not the kind of guy who write things down in lists. I just keep the information stored in my head and then jog my memory when I arrive at the store. If I’m lucky, the list of items immediately presents itself to my conscious mind. I remember what I need to buy. Second, I’m in the supermarket. I want to remember what I need to buy. But I’m hopelessly forgetful so I have to write things down in a list. I take the list from my pocket and look at the items. Now, I remember what I needed to buy.



Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

by Steve Fuller

My sociology of knowledge students read Yuval Harari’s bestselling first book, Sapiens, to think about the right frame of reference for understanding the overall trajectory of human condition. Homo Deus follows the example of Sapiens, using contemporary events to launch into what nowadays is called ‘big history’ but has been also called ‘deep history’ and ‘long history’. Whatever you call it, the orientation sees the human condition as subject to multiple overlapping rhythms of change which generate the sorts of ‘events’ that are the stuff of history lessons. But Harari’s history is nothing like the version you half remember from school.



BREXIT – some historical perspective

by Tsvi Bisk

Historical Comparison
In 1861 – 72 years after the ratification of the Constitution in 1789 – the southern states of the United States exited the American Union. In 2016 – 70 years after Winston Churchill first called for the establishment of a United States of Europe in 1946 – Great Britain exited the European Union.



Bio-Cryptoeconomy: Nanorobotic DACs for Cell Repair and Enhancement

by Melanie Swan

Blockchains as the new platform for technological innovation invite the creative imagining of applications at both the level of technology use and in the rethinking of economic principles. Some recent developments include optimism about rising Bitcoin prices and the rewards-halving milestone, trepidation about scalability, block size, and the latest hacking scandal of the Ethereum DAO, and fast-paced single ledger adoption by financial institutions.



IEET Affiliate Scholar Phil Torres Publishes New Paper in JET

Imagine that someone points a gun to your head and threatens to pull the trigger. How would you assess the overall risk of your situation? One possibility is to examine the gun: to determine its various properties, how powerful it is, the speed at which bullets emerge from the barrel, and so on. This is what many existential risk scholars have focused on with respect to existential risks: the range of technologies that could be used for harmful ends.

Full Story...
Link to Journal of Evolution and Technology



Our emerging culture of shame

by Rick Searle

remember a speech that the novelist Tom Wolfe gave on CSPAN or some such back in the 1990s in which he said something like “Nietzsche predicted that the 20th century would be the age of ideology, and that the century after the age of morality, and I believe him” I’ve never been able to find the source of the quote, but the more the 21st century rolls on, the more I’m finding it to increasingly, frighteningly true.



Decentralized Crypto-Finance: Blockchains, Automatic Markets, and Algorithmic Trust

by Melanie Swan

A revolutionary set of concepts and underlying technology enablement has arisen in the form of blockchain technology. Blockchains allow the digital payments layer the Internet never had, and more broadly contemplate an era whereby all forms of secure value transfer could take place via the Internet. This includes all monetary assets (the cash or spot market) and all assets and liabilities over any future time frame (the futures and options market, mortgages, debt and equity securities, treasury issuance, and public debt).



Shedding Light on Peter Thiel’s Dark Enlightenment

by Rick Searle

Lately I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of deja vu, and not in the least of a good kind. The recent bout was inspired by Ben Smith’s piece for BuzzFeed in which he struggled to understand how an Ayn Rand loving libertarian like the technologist Peter Thiel could end up supporting a statist demagogue like Donald Trump. Smith’s reasoning was that Trump represented perhaps the biggest disruption of them all and could use the power of the state to pursue the singularity and flying-cars Theil believed were one at our fingertips.



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Publishes New Paper on Moral Enhancement

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher has a new paper coming out in the journal Neuroethics. This one argues that directly augmenting the brain might be the most politically appropriate method of moral enhancement. This paper brings together his work on enhancement, the extended mind, and the political consequences of advanced algorithmic governance. Details below:

Full Story...
Link to Neuroethics



The Movie “Spotlight”: Philosophical Reflections

by John G. Messerly

Last night I watched “Spotlight,” one of the finest films I’ve seen in years.

The film follows The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States,[6] and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the “Spotlight” team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.[7] … The film … was named one of the finest films of 2015 by various publications. Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture along with Best Original Screenplay … (from Wikipedia)



Piketty on Free Higher Education and the Value of Meritocracy

by John Danaher

I have worked hard to get where I am. I come from a modest middle class background. Neither of my parents attended university. They grew up in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when the economy was only slowly emerging from its agricultural roots. I and my siblings were born and raised in the 1970s and 1980s, in an era of high unemployment and emigration. Things started to get better in the 1990s as the Irish economy underwent its infamous ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom. I did well in school and received a (relatively) free higher education, eventually pursuing a masters and PhD in the mid-to-late 2000s.



Is Death the Sculptor of Life or an Evil to be Vanquished?

by John Danaher

My friend Michael Hauskeller recently recommended a paper on academia.edu. It was by Davide Sisto and it was entitled “Moral Evil or Sculptor of the Living? Death and the Identity of the Subject”. I was intrigued. Longtime readers will know that I have, for some time now, been half in love with the philosophy of death. I am always keen to read a new perspective or take on the topic.



Op-ed: Climate Change Is the Most Urgent Existential Risk

by Phil Torres

Climate change and biodiversity loss may pose the most immediate and important threat to human survival given their indirect effects on other risk scenarios.



A World Ruled by Networks

by Rick Searle

One of the more confusing characteristics of our age is how it trucks in contradiction. As a prime example: the internet is the most democratizing medium in the history of humankind giving each of us the capability to reach potentially billions with the mere stroke of a key. At the same time this communication landscape is one of unprecedented concentration dominated by a handful of companies such as Facebook Google, Twitter, and in China Baidu.



Skepticism and the Meaning of Life

by John G. Messerly

I received a correspondence from a reader who wonders about “the triumph of judgment over spontaneity as we emerge from childhood into adulthood and the consequent obstacle it poses for living in psychic comfort.” In other words she worries about how to reconcile “a naturally felt purposefulness and zest for life against an intellectual sense of life’s essential pointlessness and its indifference to human concerns that give rise to the recognition of absurdity.” The only consolation she experiences is with her grandchildren “as they go about engaging the world with perfect unmediated wonder, boundless energy, and demands for attention.”



Moral Enhancement and Moral Freedom: A Critical Analysis

by John Danaher

The debate about moral neuroenhancement has taken off in the past decade. Although the term admits of several definitions, the debate primarily focuses on the ways in which human enhancement technologies could be used to ensure greater moral conformity, i.e. the conformity of human behaviour with moral norms. Imagine you have just witnessed a road rage incident. An irate driver, stuck in a traffic jam, jumped out of his car and proceeded to abuse the driver in the car behind him. We could all agree that this contravenes a moral norm. And we may well agree that the proximate cause of his outburst was a particular pattern of activity in the rage circuit of his brain. What if we could intervene in that circuit and prevent him from abusing his fellow motorists? Should we do it?



How our police became storm troopers, redux

by Rick Searle

Give events of late I thought it relevant to re-post this piece from the summer of 2014 on the militarization of policing. Sadly, almost nothing has changed, except that my prediction that police would start using robots to kill people has come true, though in a way I certainly did not anticipate. I haven’t changed anything from the original post besides cleaning up the some of the shitty grammar and adding the mind-blowing photo by Jonathan Bachman, a freelancer for Reuters. If they have history books in 20 years time that photo will be in them.



How To Live With Doubt About Life’s Meaning

by John G. Messerly

I received a correspondence from a reader who wonders about “the triumph of judgment over spontaneity as we emerge from childhood into adulthood and the consequent obstacle it poses for living in psychic comfort.” In other words she worries about how to reconcile “a naturally felt purposefulness and zest for life against an intellectual sense of life’s essential pointlessness and its indifference to human concerns that give rise to the recognition of absurdity.” The only consolation she experiences is with her grandchildren “as they go about engaging the world with perfect unmediated wonder, boundless energy, and demands for attention.”

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