Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: John Danaher



MULTIMEDIA: John Danaher Topics

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

Powerful Nonsense Ep 95 - Finding meaning in an automated world

Episode 237 - The Sofalurity Is Near

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

Superintelligence

The Ethics of Moral Enhancement

Interview on Robot Overlordz: Tech Unemployment and Enhancement

John Danaher on “Will the Future be Ruled by Algorithm?”

GMOs - Can We Stop With The Hysterics Already?

The Ethics of Human Enhancement




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John Danaher Topics




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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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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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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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



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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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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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?



#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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#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.



Understanding Nihilism: What if nothing matters?

by John Danaher

We spend so much of our time caring about things. Thomas Nagel described the phenomenon quite nicely:



John Danaher is Top 2015 IEET Writer; Technoprogressivism is Top SubCategory

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher was IEET’s top writer for 2015. His philosophical articles garnered a total of 209,541 hits.

Other top-producing writers were Managing Editor Hank Pellissier (167,288 hits), Affiliate Scholar John Messerly (163,398 hits), Advisory Board Member Gray Scott (150,453 hits) and Valerie Tarico (127,430 hits).

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Will technological unemployment lead to human disenhancement?

by John Danaher

I have written a lot about the prospects of widespread technological unemployment; I have also written a lot about the ethics of human enhancement. Are the two topics connected? Yes. At least, that’s what Michele Loi tries to argue in his recent paper “Technological Unemployment and Human Disenhancement”. In this post, I want to analyse his argument and offer some mild criticisms. I do so in a constructive spirit since I share similar views.



Theory and Application of the Extended Mind (Series Index)

by John Danaher

In the past year, I have written several posts about Chalmers and Clark’s famous extended mind thesis. This thesis takes seriously the functionalist explanation of mental events, and holds that the mind is not confined to skull. Instead, it can extend into artefacts and objects in the world around it.



Is Anyone Competent to Regulate Artificial Intelligence?

by John Danaher

Artificial intelligence is a classic risk/reward technology. If developed safely and properly, it could be a great boon. If developed recklessly and improperly, it could pose a significant risk. Typically, we try to manage this risk/reward ratio through various regulatory mechanisms. But AI poses significant regulatory challenges. In a previous post, I outlined eight of these challenges. They were arranged into three main groups. The first consisted of definitional problems: what is AI anyway? The second consisted of ex ante problems: how could you safely guide the development of AI technology? And the third consisted of ex post problems: what happens once the technology is unleashed into the world? They are depicted in the diagram above.



Blockchain Technology, Smart Contracts and Smart Property

by John Danaher

Blockchain technology is at the heart of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Most people have heard of Bitcoin and some are excited by the prospect it raises of a decentralised, stateless currency/payment system. But this is not the most interesting thing about Bitcoin. It is the blockchain technology itself that is the real breakthrough. It not only provides the foundation for a currency and payment system; it also provides the foundation for new ways of organising and managing basic social relationships. This includes legal relationships such as those involved in contractual exchange and proprietary ownership. The most prominent expression of this potential comes in the shape of Ethereum, an open source platform that allows developers to use blockchains for whatever purpose they see fit.



The Campaign Against Sex Robots: A Critical Analysis

by John Danaher

The Campaign Against Sex Robots launched to much media fanfare back in September. The brainchild of Dr. Kathleen Richardson from De Montfort University in Leicester UK, and Dr. Erik Brilling from University of Skovde in Sweden, the campaign aims to highlight the ways in which the development of sex robots could be ‘potentially harmful and will contribute to inequalities in society’. What’s more, despite being a relative newcomer, the campaign may have already achieved its first significant ‘scalp’. The 2nd International Conference on Love and Sex with Robots, organised by sex robot pioneer David Levy was due to be held in Malaysia this month (November 2015) but was cancelled by Malaysian authorities shortly after the campaign was launched.



Understanding the Threat of Algocracy

by John Danaher

On 2nd November, I gave a talk entitled “The Threat of Algocracy: Reality, Resistance and Accommodation” to the Programmable City Project at Maynooth University. You can watch the video of my presentation (minus the Q&A) below.



Demanding a Post-Work World: Technological Unemployment and the Human Future

by John Danaher

The political left has long been oriented toward the future. This is clear in its revolutionary ethos: the utopia of the revolutionary is, after all, always just around the corner. But in orienting itself toward the future, the left has not always been actively futurist in its outlook. Many leftists are uncomfortable with technology and science, viewing them as insidious and malign capitalistic projects. As a result, their utopian dreams often end up looking to a mythic historical Golden Age for inspiration.

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The Ethics of Commercial Surrogacy: Gender Inequality Arguments

by John Danaher

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Debra Satz’s analysis of commercial surrogacy. In that post, I reviewed three classic objections to surrogacy and presented some of Satz’s critiques of those objections. As I mentioned, this was a ground-clearing exercise. Although Satz’s thinks that the traditional objections are flawed, she is not herself a supporter of commercial surrogacy (to be precise, she is not a supporter of ‘contract pregnancy’, which makes the target and conclusion of her arguments less clear — I’ll return to this point below).



The Ethics of Commercial Surrogacy: Three Standard Objections

by John Danaher

Debra Satz’s book Why some things should not be for sale is an interesting take on the commodification debate. There are some — let’s call them economic imperialists — who think that we should have markets in virtually everything. Satz’s book is an extended debate with the imperialist view. Satz argues that some markets are morally noxious, particularly when they are likely to prey upon weak and vulnerable agents, and result in great harms to both individuals and society at large.



Does Money Poison Everything? Sandel and the Corruption Effect

by John Danaher

(Previous Entry)

There is a serious shortage of kidney donors throughout the developed world. This has obvious consequences for people with severe kidney disease. I’ll use my home country of Ireland as an example. According to one 2009 study, which covered the period 2000-2005, the average waiting time for someone on the transplant list was 8-15 months (with waiting times varying considerably depending on blood type). According to more recent figures from the Health Service Executive’s webpage, the average waiting time is two years, and at present there are over 650 people on the waiting list .

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Is Transnational Surrogacy Exploitative? (1) Kirby’s Argument

by John Danaher

Surrogacy is the practice whereby a commissioning parent (or parents) procures the services of a surrogate who will carry a child to term on their behalf. For obvious reasons, all surrogates are thus biologically female. There are two main categories of surrogacy: (i) genetic, whereby a male commissioning parent impregnates the surrogate (typically via artificial insemination); and (ii) gestational, whereby the commissioning parent(s) provide (or procure) an embryo for implantation in the surrogate.

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Polanyi’s Paradox: Will Humans Maintain Any Advantage Over Machines?

by John Danaher

Previous Entry

There is no denying that improvements in technology allow machines to perform tasks that were once performed best by humans. This is at the heart of the technological displacement we see throughout the economy. The key question going forward is whether humans will maintain an advantage in any cognitive or physical activity. The answer to this question will determine whether the future of the economy is one in which humans continue to play a relevant part, or one in which humans are left behind.

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Automation and Income Inequality: Understanding the Polarisation Effect

by John Danaher

Previous Entry

Inequality is now a major topic of concern. Only those with their heads firmly buried in the sand would have failed to notice the rising chorus of concern about wealth inequality over the past couple of years. From the economic tomes of Thomas Piketty and Tony Atkinson, to the battle-cries of the 99%, and on to the political successes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US, the notion that inequality is a serious social and political problem seems to have captured the popular imagination.

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Technological Unemployment and the Value of Work (Series Index)

by John Danaher

Machines have long been displacing human labour, from the wheelbarrow and plough to the smartphone and self-driving car. In the past, this has had dramatic effects on how society is organised and how people spend their days, but it has never really led to long-term structural unemployment. Humans have always found other economically productive ways to spend their time.

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Sexual Assault, Consent Apps and Technological Solutionism

by John Danaher

Sexual assault and rape are significant social problems. According to some sources, one in five American women will be victims of sexual assault or rape at some point during their university education. Though this stat is somewhat controversial  (see here for a good overview) similar (sometimes higher) figures are reported in other countries. For example, in Ireland one estimate is that 31% of women experience some form of ‘contact abuse’ in their lifetime. The figure for men is lower, but higher than you might suppose, with abuse more likely to occur during childhood.

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Why haven’t Robots taken our Jobs? The Complementarity Effect

by John Danaher

You’ve probably noticed the trend. The doomsayers are yelling once more. They are telling us that technology poses a threat to human employment — that the robots are coming for our jobs. This is a thesis that has been defended in several academic papers, popular books and newspaper articles. It has been propounded by leading figures in the tech industry, and repeatedly debated and analysed in the media (particularly new media).

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