Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Life

Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work Conference
December 5-6
Rice University, Houston, Texas




MULTIMEDIA: Life Topics

What’s so sexy about math?

This tiny particle could roam your body to find tumors

This is your brain on communication

Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Deborah Lupton on the Quantified Self

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

How better tech could protect us from distraction

The birth of virtual reality as an art form

This scientist makes ears out of apples

Color and Sound Perception Explained

Zoos Enrich Our Lives but Cost Animals Their Dignity

The Psychology of Solitude: Being Alone Can Maximize Productivity

How college loans exploit students for profit

A smarter, more precise way to think about public health

Combatting Political Corruption Combats Climate Change

Work/Life Balance Is a Non-Issue If You Find Your Purpose




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Life Topics




The World’s First Child-Sized Exoskeleton Will Melt Your Heart

by George Dvorsky

We’ve seen exoskeletons before, but nothing quite like this one. The new brace, developed by Spanish researchers, will help children with spinal muscular atrophy.

The 26-pound device consists of long support rods and are adjusted to fit around a child’s legs and torso. A series of motors mimic human muscles in the joints, endowing the patient the required strength to stand upright and walk. A series of sensors, along with a movement controller and a five-hour battery, complete the system. The aluminum and titanium device can also be expanded and modified to accommodate children between the age of 3 and 14.



Worst case scenario – 2035 and no basic income.

by Khannea Suntzu

There is now an almost constant stream of articles saying what was politically incorrect to state out loud just 5-8 years ago – Technological Unemployment is certain, it is imminent and ‘something like a basic income’ will be necessary. I have said so much on this societal issue in the last ten years that it quite often feels like an obligatory rehash of the arguments in favor of a basic income. The best and most authoritative arguments are still being voiced by Martin Ford and I suggest everyone to check his level-headed and well researched presentations on the topic. In my understanding Martin blows arguments against out of the water.



How VR Gaming will Wake Us Up to our Fake Worlds

by Eliott Edge

“It has no relationship whatsoever to anything anchored in some kind of metaphysical superspace.  It’s just your cultural point of view […] Travel shows you the relativity of culture.”

— Terence McKenna



Mens Health Week: One Doctor Thinks We Should Be Talking about Better Birth Control for Guys

by Valerie Tarico

Dr. Stephanie Page at the University of Washington talks about why male birth control matters.

The Centers for Disease Control declared June 13 to 19 of 2016 as “National Men’s Health Week.” If it was Women’s Health Week, media experts would be talking a lot about sexual health and, especially, how women can safeguard against ill-timed or unwanted pregnancy. But for guys, pregnancy prevention is not even on the list, which instead emphasizes sleep, tobacco, food choices, and exercise.



Imagining the Anthropocene

by Rick Searle

Almost a year ago now, while reading an article by the historian Yuval Harari in the British newspaper The Guardian, I had a visceral experience of what it means to live in the Anthropocene. Harari’s piece was about the horrors of industrial meat production, and as evidence of the scale of the monstrosity, he listed a set of facts that I had either not known, or had never taken the time to fully contemplate.



On tragedy, ethics and the human condition.

by Alex McGilvery

The shootings at the Pulse club in Orlando highlight once more just how far we humans need to go in the evolution of our ethics. People on all sides have already weighed in on how their particular way of seeing the world would have prevented the crime. Almost immediately they began talking past each other with little or no effort to hear the other side.



China May Be the Reason that Speech Recognition Takes Off

by Daniel Faggella

Google may have DeepMind, but Baidu, China’s homegrown Google, has Deep Speech.

Deep Speech, which debuted in December 2015, is a speech recognition system that uses an artificial neural network to translate audio input directly to transcribed output. By contrast, most speech recognition systems, including Siri, use multiple, engineer-crafted steps to make translations.



Evolution: Natural or Technical

by Alexandre Maurer

Transhumanism embodies the idea that humans have to assume their evolution. Given this approach, Transhumanism is often paralleled with Darwin’s theory of natural evolution. Is this parallel pertinent? Yes… and No? In this article, we will try to identify the limits. We will explain why technological evolution (in the context of Transhumanism) appears to be significantly preferable.



Dubai Is Building the World’s Largest Concentrated Solar Power Plant

by George Dvorsky

They like to do things big in Dubai, including a newly-approved concentrated solar power project that will generate 1,000 megawatts of power by 2020—and a whopping 5,000 megawatts by 2030.

he Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) has announced the launch of the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) project. Located on a single site within the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the plant will consist of five facilities. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed either in late 2020 or 2021, at which time it’s expected to generate 1,000 MW of power. By 2030, this plant could be churning out five times that amount—enough to raise the emirate’s total power output by 25 percent.



Some Antidepressants Might Actually Be Harmful to Children and Teens

by George Dvorsky

A discouraging new study concludes that most antidepressants are ineffective for children and adolescents, and may even be harmful in some cases. But the researchers caution that the low quantity and quality of clinical trials are obscuring the true effects of these drugs.



Living Bacteria Can Now Store Data

by George Dvorsky

Using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, scientists from Harvard University have developed a technique that permanently records data into living cells. Incredibly, the information imprinted onto these microorganisms can be passed down to the next generation.



Does Self-Tracking Promote Autonomy? An Initial Argument

by John Danaher

Seneca was a wealthy Roman stoic and advisor to the emperor Nero. In the third of his Letters from a Stoic, entitled ‘On True and False Friendship’, he makes the following observation:

As to yourself, although you should live in such a way that you trust your own self with nothing which you could not entrust even to your own enemy, yet, since certain matters occur which convention keeps secret, you should share with a friend at least all your worries and reflections.



WHAT MORAL ENHANCEMENT?

by Marc Roux

Transhumanists, as good humanists, think the human can be perfected, both physically and morally. Any difference in humans basically is a consequence of philosophy, education, culture or law, that is to say political consensus. Transhumanists now include technology as a means of continuing human enhancement (and not as certain unenlightened commentators jokingly wrote as a substitute thereof). Notwithstanding centuries of legislation, culture, education and philosophy, progress, which the philosophers of the « Enlightenment » called Virtue, seems to be blocked by the remains of the biological condition of humans.



Rare Genetic Mutation May Explain Some Forms of Multiple Sclerosis

by George Dvorsky

Canadian scientists have uncovered a single genetic mutation that significantly heightens a person’s chance of developing a progressive and severe form of multiple sclerosis. While no single factor is responsible for causing the neurological disease, the discovery points to possible treatment options.



New Details Emerge About the Plan to Build an Artificial Human Genome

by George Dvorsky

Last month, a group of scientists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs gathered in secret to discuss the possibility of creating a synthetic human genome from scratch. Details of the plan have finally been made public, and it’s as ambitious as it sounds. But critics say they founders of the new project are avoiding the tough ethical questions.



Review of Bryan Magee’s, “Ultimate Questions”

by John G. Messerly

Bryan Magee (1930 – ) has had a multifaceted career as a professor of philosophy, music and theater critic, BBC broadcaster, public intellectual and member of Parliament. He has starred in two acclaimed television series about philosophy: Men of Ideas (1978) and The Great Philosophers (1987). He is best known as a popularizer of philosophy. His easy-to-read books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages, include:



The Monotony of Work

by John G. Messerly

I corresponded with an old friend yesterday who was communicating the tedium of his work as a software engineer. He is thankful that he earns a six-figure salary, and he understands that most people in the world would happily trade places with him, but that doesn’t change the fact that a future filled with a lifetime of coding doesn’t excite his probing and restless mind. Minds like his need stimulation, and they could contribute so much to the rest of us if they were freed to follow their interests . Moreover, while technology companies pay some of the best wages in the United States, they expect more than 40 hours of work in return, which leaves my friend with less time with his children than he would like.



Is Effective Altruism Fair to Small Donors? (Guest Post by Iason Gabriel)

by John Danaher

NOTE: This is a guest post by Iason Gabriel from St. John’s College Oxford. I recently did a series on Iason’s excellent article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. In this post, Iason develops his counterfactual critique of effective altruism. Be sure to check out more of Iason’s work on his academia page.)



Stefan Sorgner @ “Grand Narratives, Posthumanism, and Aesthetics” Conference

Katherine Hayles and IEET Fellow Stefan Lorenz Sorgner will be keynote speakers at the conference “Grand Narratives, Posthumanism, and Aesthetics”, which will take place at Aarhus University from the 22nd until the 24th of March 2017. Read the conference program here.

Full Story...
Link to Posthuman Aesthetics, Aarhus University



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Interviewed by Futurezone

When machines take all the jobs that people need to find new meaning in life. This could be for the company, according to John Danaher both curse and blessing.

Full Story...
Link to Futurezone



Is Effective Altruism actually Effective?

by John Danaher

(Part one; part two; part three)

This is going to be my final post on the topic of effective altruism (for the time being anyway). I’m working my way through the arguments in Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. Once I finish, Iason has kindly agreed to post a follow-up piece which develops some of his views.



Developing countries – help yourselves! A case study of Kazakhstan

by Ilia Stambler

On May 19, 2016, the World Health Organization released its report “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” describing the recent state of global health. The news is rather encouraging. The global life expectancy increased by 5 years, from about 66.5 to 71.4 presently, recording the fastest increase since the 1960s. The rightly so-called “developing” countries generally showed a much faster improvement compared to the complacently “developed” ones. Thus, Africa generally had the lowest life expectancy.



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Publishes New Paper in Journal: Bioethics

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher published a new paper coming out in the journal Bioethics. It’s about the philosophy of education and student use of cognitive enhancement drugs. It suggests that universities might be justified in regulating their students’ use of enhancement drugs, but only in a very mild, non-compulsory way. It suggests that a system of voluntary commitment contracts might be an interesting proposal. The details are below.

Full Story...
Link to Bioethics



Is Effective Altruism Methodologically Biased?

by John Danaher

(Part One; Part Two)

After a long hiatus, I am finally going to complete my series of posts about Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’ (changed from the original title ‘What’s wrong with effective altruism?). I’m pleased to say that once I finish the series I am also going to post a response by Iason himself which follows up on some of the arguments in his paper. Let me start today, however, by recapping some of the material from previous entries and setting the stage for this one.



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Publishes New Paper - Robots, Law and the Retribution Gap

Here is a new paper that John Danaher, IEET Affiliate Scholar, has published and will be coming out in the journal Ethics and Information Technology. In case you are interested, the idea for this paper originated in this blogpost from late 2014.

Full Story...
Link to Ethics and Information Technology



Trading Modern Medicine for Cheap Meat

by Brynn Arborico

How our dwindling antibiotic supply is misspent in agriculture and what we must do to stop it

A “superbug” resistant to all known antibiotics has surfaced in the United States for the first time, in a woman being treated for a urinary tract infection. Unless radical changes are made in how antibiotics get used, doctors fear that the near future may take us back a pre-antibiotic pattern of death by infection. 



Will Transhumanism Change Racism in the Future?

by Zoltan Istvan

Despite decades of progress, racism and bigotry are still prevalent in the United States. Often, they even dominate the news in American media, like during the Baltimore riots or the Ferguson shooting. Movements like Black Lives Matter remind us that the society we live in still has many biases to be fought against, but that good work can be done to combat bigotry if people unite against it.



A snapshot on the fight against death

by Fran Villalba Segarra

We are humans. We are animals that are born, grow and die. A life, indeed, limited by death. Some, through religion, have tried to address this issue. People believed and still legitimately believe that their soul will go to heaven once they die. However, we are now really close to finally defeating death through science. The aim of this article is to address this exact topic; immortality. This will be done through two sets of arguments. The first one will deal with the social issues related to the topic; the second with the scientific part. Although human death has not yet been cured, it is thought that it will be within the next fifty years, bringing social issues that will have to be considered.



L’absurde peur du temps libre

by Alexandre Maurer

Dans le cadre du transhumanisme “technoprogressiste” que nous promouvons, il y a deux revendications majeures :
– D’une part, faire de l’allongement de la durée de vie en bonne santé une cause médicale à part entière, afin que tous ceux qui le souhaitent puissent en bénéficier.
– D’autre part, redistribuer les bénéfices de l’automatisation, afin que le remplacement progressif des emplois par des machines permette à chacun une vie plus libre et plus épanouissante.



Capital Lust, Not Capitalism, is Destroying the Earth and the Economy - See more at: http://ehumanda

by Nicole Sallak Anderson

I don’t like the word capitalism, but not because I’m against the free market. Open trade and markets provide wealth and raise the standard of living for the majority of people in democratic societies. Free markets also allow the exchange of ideas and innovations without the meddling of governments or religion.

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