In his 1932 “My Credo” Albert Einstein wrote “I do not believe in free will.” In the best-seller Free Will, Sam Harris declares the notion “incoherent.” Neuro-philosopher Garrett Merriam opines in an IEET interview “the notion of ‘free will’.. [is a] useless concept… I have high hopes that neuroscience will…eliminate [it]…”
A friend emailed me to say that he believed that transhumanists should strive to be free, if free will doesn’t currently exist, or strive to be freer, if humans currently possess some small modicum of free will. He also suggested that becoming transhuman would expedite either process. In short he was claiming that transhumanists should desire more freedom.
Medical procedures and research are yucky. Good healthcare means getting over it. If religious conservatives have their way, reproductive healthcare will be dictated by the same psychology that drives middle school jokes about genitals, dead babies and poop—our instinctive squeamish reaction to things that are disgusting and shocking, especially if they relate to sex. Good thing public health advocates and medical providers have a higher set of priorities.
Back in the late winter I wrote a review of the biologist Edmund O. Wilson’s grandiloquently mistitled tract- TheMeaning of Human Existence. As far as visions of the future go Wilson’s was a real snoozer, although for that very reason it left little to be nervous about. The hope that he articulated in his book being that we somehow manage to keep humanity pretty much the same- genetically at least- “as a sacred trust”, in perpetuity. It’s a bio-conservatism that, on one level, I certainly understand, but one I also find incredibly unlikely given that the future consists of….well…. an awfully long stretch of time (that is as long as we’re wise enough or just plain lucky ). How in the world can we expect, especially in light of current advances in fields like genetics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence etc, that we can, or even should, keep humanity essentially unchanged not just now, but for 100 years, or 1000s year, 10,000s years, or even longer?
While less controversial than it was fifty years ago, psychotherapy is an anomalous feature of modern culture, plagued by defects. Among its shortcomings, psychotherapy has made remarkably little use of information technologies. This blog considers electronic devices to measure human emotional response, that may have been stigmatized by their use in radical religious movements, or by their origins in primitive attempts a century ago to cure neurotics. I do not recommend simply adopting those religious or therapeutic practices, but adapting the technology to new uses. A mentally healthy individual could employ emotion-sensing hardware to identify personal goals, consider the meaning of past events, and explore future possibilities.
Like our brains, the human penis hasn’t evolved in tens of thousands of years — and that’s a real shame. Our favorite male body part is capable of so much more. In consideration of pending advances in science and technology, here’s what to expect with penis 2.0.
Politics is being shaped by our responses to the prospect of accelerating, exponential technological change. Technosceptics deny accelerating change will occur. Technoconservatives accept that accelerating change poses radical questions, and want to stem the tide of change. Technolibertarians believe accelerating change will be for the best, and technology and capitalism just need to be left to work their wonders. Technoprogressives believe accelerating change poses serious risks as well as rewards, and that we can maximize the rewards and minimize the risks through public policy.
Is there any politically tractable strategy for transhumanism to avoid the Bismarckian move, which ultimately curtails the capacity of basic research to explore and challenge the fundamental limits of our being? My answer is as follows: Transhumanists need to take a more positive attitude towards the military.
We stand at the cusp of guaranteeing the survival of fundamental purpose in the universe, reality, and existence by insuring the continuation of consciousness. This is a far grander calling than merely enabling individual life extension. Existential metaphysical purpose is our foremost responsibility as conscious beings, and computer intelligence is the method of achieving it.
We asked the IEET audience “In the coming century will face-to-face, in-body sex be more or less common?” given tech that will encourage virtualization such as brainjacks, porn, sexbots, and electronically-mediated sex. Or will we revel in our newly young, perpetually healthy, and hormonally tweaked bodies by having a lot more face-to-face sex. The 140 of you who responded were two-to-one convinced we are headed for more virtual sex.
I critiqued the Effective Altruist movement in a previous essay, and suggested a superior alternative: DIY Philanthropy. My recommendation is to erase the ‘middleman” in charitable giving by donating directly to the people you want to assist. Instead of spending hours trying to decide the best non-profit to scribble a check to, you can travel directly to those in need and hand them cash, food, medicine or supplies. Face-to-Face.
After several decades of relative obscurity Transhumanism as a philosophical and technological movement has finally begun to break out of its strange intellectual ghetto and make small inroads into the wider public consciousness. This is partly because some high profile people have either adopted it as their worldview or alternatively warned against its potential dangers. Indeed, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama named it “The world’s most dangerous idea” in a 2004 article in the US magazine Foreign Policy, and Transhumanism’s most outspoken publicist, Ray Kurzweil, was recently made director of engineering at Google, presumably to hasten Transhumanism’s goals.
“Blue Gold.” Water is becoming dangerously rare and valuable in drought-stricken areas around the globe, including my home in California.
Today citizens in developed nations each wastefully splash away 100s of gallons per day. But what if fresh H2O continues to dwindle? Suppose humans were rationed a meager allotment, like 10, or 5, or even 2 gallons per day?
Authors Peter H. Diamandis and Steve Kotler have created just about the perfect handbook when it comes to envisioning a technically advanced, democratic and thriving society. Written in 2012, this book is still an important read for anyone who’s interested in a technical future where humanity finally rises above the mire it has been tethered to for millennia.
I have been interested in the above topic since taking a wonderful graduate seminar in the subject about 30 years ago from Richard J. Blackwell at St. Louis University. Recently a friend introduced me to a paper on the topic, “Bridging the Is-Ought Divide: Life is. Life ought to act to remain so,” by Edward Gibney who argues (roughly) that the naturalistic fallacy has no force. Gibney is not a professional philosopher, but I found myself receptive to his argument nonetheless.
Fewer pregnant teens, fewer abortions, fewer unwed mothers, fewer single-parent families on welfare, more balanced state budgets. Sounds like a set of goals that should be common ground for anyone who cares about America’s future, right?
Today, I retract my support. Although EA’s core intention is morally commendable - donating “expendable income” to world-improving causes - there are multiple details in its strategy and organization that are sloppy, simplistic, ethically dubious and downright foolish.
It pains me to reach this conclusion. Here’s how it happened:
I just finished reading Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford. This is a nonfiction book in which Ford predicts that all jobs will soon be automated away, and that this will lead to an economic crash, since no one will have any money to buy anything. I’ve written about this idea before, and Ford’s position hasn’t changed much since his previous book, Lights in the Tunnel.
The last couple of months have seen major victories for marriage equality. In May, Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a national referendum — the first country in the world to do so by popular vote. In June, the US Supreme court issued a landmark 5-4 decision legalising same-sex marriage throughout the United States. These were important steps toward building a fairer and more just society. If marriage is to continue to exist as a legally-recognised relationship status, then it is important that it do so in an egalitarian and inclusive manner. I don’t think anyone should doubt this.
Ivory Coast is one of the countries in Africa where belief is witchcraft is widespread. A Gallup Poll found in 2010 that up to 95 percent of the populations believed in “sorciellerie” – the French word for witchcraft. This means that witchcraft is more or less a ‘national religion’. Almost everyone in the country thinks as a matter of fact, not fantasy that witchcraft is real in its conception and consequences, that people can harm others using mystical means.
Transhumanists typically think of human enhancement in terms of biological and computational technologies that are physical in nature, and yet historically many schools of psychology have aimed to improve people through non-physical therapies, personality training, or methods of self-discovery based on relatively standard theories in social and behavioral science. The diversity of such approaches is absolutely astonishing, but in their underlying ideologies and treatment practices, some are indistinguishable from religions, others are clearly tied to science, and still others apparently are based on extrapolations from popular notions about the human mind that may or may not be correct.
This map shows that AI failure resulting in human extinction could happen on different levels of AI development, namely:
1. before it starts self-improvement (which is unlikely but we still can envision several failure modes),
2. during its take off, when it uses different instruments to break out from its initial confinement, and
3. after its successful takeover of the world, when it starts to implement its goal system which could be unfriendly, or its friendliness may be flawed.
25 years ago most people didn’t imagine that the Internet would reshape the way that they existed on a day-to-day basis. 25 years from now people will think about Virtual Reality the same way we think about the Internet today – we won’t even be able to imagine our global existence without it. One of the largest beneficiaries of this technological development could be the global church because VR is going to change the way that Christians participate in worship.
As right wing news outlets have it, untrained government workers in Washington State are doing secret gynecological procedures on 11 year old school girls, implanting dangerous and unhealthy birth control without consent from doting parents who have no idea they are losing their daughters! Liberal priorities are so messed up that it’s easier for an 11 year old to get an IUD than a Coca-Cola at a Washington school.
In Nick Bostrom’s essay, Transhumanist Values, he states in the first sentence that transhumanism is “a loosely defined movement.” Further into the essay, he lists five “examples of currents within transhumanism.”
The “Immortality Bus” - appearing as a 40-foot coffin - will soon be rolling down American highways as a “pro-science symbol of resistance against aging and death.” The bus will stop at rallies and events to argue “for science and technology to overcome death.”
One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog.