Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: John Danaher



MULTIMEDIA: John Danaher Topics

The Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Episode 3

The Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Episode 2

Episode #1- Tal Zarsky on the Ethics of Big Data and Predictive Analytics

Surrogacy Conference

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 Ethics of Intimate Surveillance (2): A Landscape of Objections

by John Danaher

This is the second in a two-part series (read Part I here)looking at the ethics of intimate surveillance. In part one, I explained what was meant by the term ‘intimate surveillance’, gave some examples of digital technologies that facilitate intimate surveillance, and looked at what I take to be the major argument in favour of this practice (the argument from autonomy).



The Ethics of Intimate Surveillance (1)

by John Danaher

Intimate Surveillance’ is the title of an article by Karen Levy - a legal and sociological scholar currently-based at NYU. It shines light on an interesting and under-explored aspect of surveillance in the digital era. The forms of surveillance that capture most attention are those undertaken by governments in the interests of national security or corporations in the interests of profit.



What’s happening inside the black box? Three forms of algorithmic opacity

by John Danaher

The debate about algorithmic governance (or as I prefer ‘algocracy’) has been gathering pace over the past couple of years. As computer-coded algorithms become ever more woven into the fabric of economic and political life, and as the network of data-collecting devices that feed these algorithms grows, we can expect that pace to quicken.



Blockchains and the Emergence of a Lex Cryptographia

by John Danaher

Here’s an interesting idea. It’s taken from Aaron Wright and Primavera de Filippi’s article ‘Decentralized Blockchain Technology and the Rise of Lex Cryptographia’. The article provides an excellent overview of blockchain technology and its potential impact on the law. It ends with an interesting historical reflection. It suggests that the growth of blockchain technology may give rise to a new type of legal order: a lex cryptographia. This is similar to how the growth in international trading networks gave rise to a lex mercatoria and how the growth in the internet gave rise to a lex informatica.



The Evolution of Social Values: From Foragers to Farmers to Fossil Fuels

by John Danaher

I was first introduced to the work of Ian Morris last summer. Somebody suggested that I read his book Why the West Rules for Now, which attempts to explain the differential rates of human social development between East and West over the past 12,000 years. I wasn’t expecting much: I generally prefer narrowly focused historical works, not ones that attempt to cover the whole of human history. But I was pleasantly surprised.



Blockchains and DAOs as the Modern Leviathan

by John Danaher

In 1651, Thomas Hobbes published Leviathan. It is arguably the most influential work of political philosophy in the modern era. The distinguished political theorist Alan Ryan believes that Hobbes’s work marks the birth of liberalism. And since most of the Western world now lives under liberal democratic rule, there is a sense in which we are all living in the shadow of Leviathan.



Are we heading towards a singularity of crime?

by John Danaher

On the 8th August 1963, a gang of fifteen men boarded the Royal Mail train heading from London to Glasgow. They were there to carry out a robbery. In the end, they made off with £2.6 million (approximately £46 million in today’s money). The robbery had been meticulously planned. Using information from a postal worker (known as “the Ulsterman”), the gang waylaid the train at a signal crossing in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire.



Danaher published in the journal “Science and Engineering Ethics”

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher recently published a paper on technological unemployment and the meaning of life in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics.

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Link to Science and Engineering Ethics



Danaher Awarded by Irish Research Council

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher has been awarded funding by the Irish Research Council for a project entitled “The Threat of Algocracy and the Transhumanist Project.”

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New Technologies as Social Experiments: An Ethical Framework

by John Danaher

What was Apple thinking when it launched the iPhone? It was an impressive bit of technology, poised to revolutionise the smartphone industry, and set to become nearly ubiquitous within a decade. The social consequences have been dramatic. Many of those consequences have been positive: increased connectivity, increased knowledge and increased day-to-day convenience.



Body-based Trades and the Ethics of Divided Labour

by John Danaher

This post focuses on a particular argument about the ethics of body-based trades, in particular surrogacy and reproductive labour. The argument comes from Anne Phillips and is presented in her book Our Bodies, Whose Property?

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Understanding Exploitation: Unfair advantage and the lack of consent

by John Danaher

I feel like there is a lot of exploitation in the world. When I buy clothes, I worry that they have been made by exploited workers, labouring in appalling conditions in sweatshops in developing countries. When I use my mobile phone, I worry that the coltan that is used to manufacture the chips has been sourced from exploited workers in conflict zones, and that the phones themselves have been assembled by exploited workers in large factory complexes somewhere in Asia. Of course, I still buy the clothes and use the phone (like pretty much everybody else). So the question arises: should I worry about the exploitation?

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Technological Growth, Inequality and Property Price Increases: An Explanation?

by John Danaher

This post is a bit of a departure for me. I’m not an economist. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I dabble occasionally in economics-related topics, particularly those concerning technology and economic theory, but I rarely get involved in the traditional core of economics — in topics like property prices, economic growth, debt, wealth inequality and the like. But it’s precisely those topics that I want to get involved with in this post.

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Symbols and their Consequences in the Sex Robot Debate

by John Danaher

I am currently editing a book with Neil McArthur on the social, legal and ethical implications of sex robots. As part of that effort, I’m trying to develop a clearer understanding of the typical objections to the creation of sex robots. I have something of a history on this topic. I’ve developed objections to (certain types of) sex robots in my own previous work; and critiqued the objections of others, such as the Campaign Against Sex Robots, on this blog. But I have yet to step back and consider the structural properties these objections might share.

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Justice-Related Objections to Effective Altruism

by John Danaher

This post is the first substantive entry in my series about effective altruism. In a previous post, I offered a general introduction to the topic of effective altruism (EA) and sketched out a taxonomy of the main objections to the practice. In that post, I adopted a ‘thick’ definition of EA, which holds that one ought to do the most good one can do, assuming a welfarist and consequentialist approach to ethics, and favouring evidentially robust policy interventions.

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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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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.

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