Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Affiliate Scholar



MULTIMEDIA: Affiliate Scholar Topics

Future “Bodyshops”

Podcast Interview - Is High Tech Turning Us Into the Borg?

Powerful Nonsense Ep 95 - Finding meaning in an automated world

Singularity 1 on 1: Compassion is the reason to reverse aging!

Episode 237 - The Sofalurity Is Near

Ilia Stambler - Nigeria ICT Fest 2015

Rick Searle - Nigeria ICT Fest 2015

068: Does Life Have Meaning in a World Without Work?

The Tasks of Longevity Promotion: Science, Ethics and Public Policy

Socrates Deconstructs Singularity University

Sustainable abundance as a political program

Post-Human

Automating Science: Panel at Philosophy of Science

BioViva: Ending Aging through Gene Therapy

Crypto Enlightenment: A Social Theory of Blockchains




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Affiliate Scholar Topics




John Searle’s Critique of Ray Kurzweil

by John G. Messerly

John Searle (1932 – ) is currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD from Oxford University. He is a prolific author and one of the most important living philosophers.



The one percent discovers transhumanism: Davos 2016

by Rick Searle

The World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland just wrapped up its annual gathering. It isn’t hard to make fun of this yearly coming together of the global economic and cultural elites who rule the world, or at least think they do.

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The Value of Deep Work and How to Prioritise It

by John Danaher

My life is filled with trivial, time-wasting tasks. As an academic, teaching and research are the most valuable* activities I perform. And yet as I progress in my career I find myself constantly drawn away from these two things to focus on administrative tasks. While efficient administration is important in large organisations (like universities), it feels like a major time-sink to someone like me because (a) I am not ultimately rewarded for being good at it (career progression depends far more research and, to a lesser extent, teaching) and (b) I don’t have any aptitude for or interest in it.

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Ray Kurzweil’s Basic Ideas

by John G. Messerly

Ray Kurzweil is an author, inventor, futurist, and currently Director of Engineering at Google. He is involved in fields such as optical character recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments; he is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism; and he may be the most prominent spokesman in the world today for advocating the use of technology to transform humanity.

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Book Review: The Misfortunes of the Dead, by George Pitcher

by John G. Messerly

George Pitcher is emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton where he was a member of the philosophy department from 1956-1981. His 1984 article, “The Misfortunes of the Dead,” addresses the question of whether the dead can be harmed.



Death is an Ultimate Evil

by John G. Messerly

The story of Ivan Ilyich indicates an inseparable connection between death and meaning. The precise connection is unclear, but surely it depends in large part on whether death is the end of our consciousness. While beliefs in immortality have been widespread among humans, such beliefs are extremely difficult to defend rationally.

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Top Five Features to Expect from Your Future Car

by B. J. Murphy

If someone were to ask you nearly 30 years ago what your future car will be by 2016, I’d assume that you would base your ideas on Back to the Future Part II. The flying car would almost always come to mind. But then, despite the fact that flying cars do exist in 2016, they’re incredibly expensive and not very popular. What Back to the Future didn’t expect were cars that could drive themselves, were connected to online systems, and were increasingly abandoning fossil fuels.

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Cloudworld: A Hegelian Theory of Complexity and Algorithmic Reality

by Melanie Swan

Philosophy could be an important conceptual resource in the determination of human-technology interactions for several reasons. First, philosophy concerns the topics of world, reality, self, society, aspirations, and meaning, all of which we are hoping to reconfigure and accentuate in our relations with technology. Improving human lives is after all one of the main purposes of technology. Second, philosophy relates to thinking, logic, reasoning, and being, which are the key properties of what we would like our technology entities to do.

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Stambler and Omowole will speak at World Lumen Congress 2016

IEET Affiliate Scholar Ilia Stambler and IEET contributing writer Agbolade Omowole will be speaking at the World Lumen Congress 2016 in Iasi, Romania, from April 12-17.

 

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Epictetus: What Can We Control?

by John G. Messerly

Epictetus (c. 55 – 135 CE) was born as a slave in the Roman Empire, but obtained his freedom as a teenager. He studied Stoic philosophy from an early age, eventually lecturing on Stoicism in Rome. He was forced to leave the city in 89 CE, after the Emperor Domitian banished philosophers from Italy. He then established his own school at Nicopolis on the Adriatic coast in Greece, where he taught and lectured until he died around 135. Today he is regarded as one of the preeminent Stoic philosophers.



Reality Transducer or Omniscience Engine? Five Metaphors for the Internet of Things

by John Danaher

I think metaphors are important. They can help to organise the way we think about something, highlighting its unappreciated features, and allowing us to identify possibilities that were previously hidden from view. They can also be problematic, biasing our thought in unproductive ways, and obscuring things that should be in plain view. Good metaphors are key.

 

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Religion and Violence Revisted

by Rick Searle

A few weeks back I did a post on religion and violence the gist of which was that it’s far too simplistic to connect religiosity to violence without paying much closer attention to the social context. Religious violence should been seen, I argued, as the response to some real or perceived mistreatment. In addition I also suggested that perhaps what appears to make believers in monotheistic faiths particularly prone to violence is their insistence that they alone possess religious truth.

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The Goods of Work (other than Money) in a Postwork Future

by John Danaher
Let’s distinguish between two senses of the word ‘work’:

Work 1: The performance of some skill in return for, or in the ultimate hope of receiving, an extrinsic economic reward.

Work2: Activities performed by human beings, individually and in groups, for both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons, not necessarily for economic reward.

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Seneca On the Proper Use of Time

by John G. Messerly

Yesterday I wrote about the impending death of the great neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. I was particularly struck by this line from Sachs’ public goodbye: “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential.” This brought to mind the Stoic philosopher Seneca who touched on a similar theme in his short piece, On the Shortness of Life:



Is Resistance Futile? Are we already Borg?

by John Danaher

From the days of the Acheulean hand-axe on, humans have always had a symbiotic relationship with technology. How far will that relationship go? One haunting vision of the future is provided by the Borg — one of the main villains of the Star Trek universe.

 

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Danaher Publishes The Threat of Algocracy: Reality, Resistance and Accommodation

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher has a new paper in the journal Philosophy and Technology.

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Link to Philosophy and Technology



Report on Nigeria ICT Festival 2015

by Agbolade Omowole

Mascot Information and Technology Solutions held the maiden edition of Nigeria ICT Fest on December 4, 2015 at Magrellos fast food, Festac Town, Lagos, and December 5, 2015 at Radisson Blu Anchorage hotel at No. 1A, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos, to bridge the technology gap between Nigeria and the developed world.

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Marcus Aurelius: A Brief Summary of The Meditations

by John G. Messerly

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. ~ Marcus Aurelius



Should we stop killer robots? (2) - The Right Reason Objection

by John Danaher

(Previous post)

This post is the second in a short series looking at the arguments against the use of fully autonomous weapons systems (AWSs). As I noted at the start of the previous entry, there is a well-publicised campaign that seeks to pre-emptively ban the use of such systems on the grounds that they cross fundamental moral line and fail to comply with the laws of war. I’m interested in this because it intersects with some of my own research on the ethics of robotic systems. And while I’m certainly not a fan of AWSs (I’m not a fan of any weapons systems), I’m not sure how strong the arguments of the campaigners really are.

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Effective Altruism: A Taxonomy of Objections

by John Danaher

The effective altruism (EA) movement has been gaining quite a lot of notoriety recently. Although EA ideas have been common in academic circles for years, two major books have been published in the past year presenting the central tenets of the movement to the wider public. The first was from the movement’s godfather, Peter Singer, and was called The Most Good You Can Do. The second was from the movement’s precocious young figurehead Will MacAskill and was called Doing Good Better. MacAskill’s book in particular received widespread media coverage, no doubt in part fueled by the impressive resume of its young author.

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Thaddeus Metz: “Toward a unified account of great meaning in life”

by John G. Messerly

Thaddeus Metz is Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He grew up in Iowa and received his PhD from Cornell University in 1997. After teaching at the University of Missouri-St. Louis for a number of years, he relocated to South Africa in 2004. He is probably the most prolific and thoughtful scholar working today on an analytic approach to the meaning of life, publishing more than a dozen articles on the subject including the entry on the meaning of life in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Stoicism, Psychological Suffering and Disengagement

by John Danaher

I’ve been struggling with blogging over the holiday period. Writing is a strange compulsion for me. I never quite feel satisfied if I close out a day without writing something. But people keep telling me I should ‘switch off’ and relax now and then. So I’ve tried to step back from it over the past two weeks. I think this has had the opposite of the desired effect. The dissatisfaction grows with each passing day and I feel frustrated by the various social and family obligations which block my return to writing.

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IEET Affiliate Scholar Seth Baum interviewed on the History Channel

On Monday, January 4, 2016, the History Channel aired a 2-hour documentary called “The Seven New Signs of the Apocalypse” at 9pm ET.

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Link to The History Channel



Was Nazi Evil Unique?

by Rick Searle

‘The God of Israel said, to the Rock of Israel [David]; I rule man; who rules Me? It is the righteous: for I make a decree and he may annul it’.

Babylonian Talmud 16b

A few weeks back I was sitting in a laundromat watching my clothes spin round and reading a book on the Holocaust. Not quite sure why such a situation would lend itself to commentary from strangers, but I was approached by a 50ish or so middle class looking guy who felt it his duty to point out to me that Stalin and Mao had killed a lot more people than Hitler. 

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Is there Trouble with Algorithmic Decision-making? Fairness and Efficiency-based Objections

by John Danaher

Tal Zarsky’s work has featured on this blog before. He is an expert in the legal aspects of big data and algorithmic decision-making. He recently published a paper entitled “The Trouble with Algorithmic Decision-Making” in which he tries to identify, categorise and respond to some of the leading objections to the use of algorithmic decision-making processes. This is a topic that interests me too, so I was eager to see what he had to say.



The Philosophy of Games and the Postwork Utopia

by John Danaher

I want to start with a thought experiment: Suppose the most extreme predictions regarding technological unemployment come to pass. The new wave of automating technologies take over most forms of human employment. The result is that there is no economically productive domain for human workers to escape into. Suppose, at the same time, that we all benefit from this state of affairs. In other words, the productive gains of the technology do not flow solely to a handful of super-wealthy capitalists; they are fairly distributed to all (perhaps through an guaranteed income scheme). Call this the ‘postwork’ world. What would life be like in such a world?



Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots

by Kate Darling

“Why do you cry, Gloria? Robbie was only a machine, just a nasty old machine. He wasn’t alive at all.”

“He was not no machine!” screamed Gloria fiercely and ungrammatically. “He was a person like you and me and he was my friend.”

– Isaac Asimov (1950)

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#4: Does Work Undermine our Freedom?

by John Danaher

According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2015? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 30 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 1,000), based on how many total hits each one received.

The following piece was first published here on February 1, 2015,  and is the #4 most viewed of the year.

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Religion and Violence

by Rick Searle

Sometimes, I get the uneasy feeling that the New Atheists might be right after all. Perhaps there is something latently violent in the religious imagination, some feature, or tendency, encouraged by religion that the world would better be without.



#10: The Democratic Trilemma: Is Democracy Possible?

by John Danaher

According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2015? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 30 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 1,000), based on how many total hits each one received.

The following piece was first published here on February 5, 2015,  and is the #10 most viewed of the year.

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