Every year, the editors of the Futurist magazine identify the most provocative forecasts and statements about the future that we’ve published recently and we put them to into an annual report called "Outlook." And every year, we attempt to identify the ten forecasts from that report that paint the most compelling picture of the future as it exists right now. As I recently wrote for Slate, none of these forecasts are meant to be taken as absolute.
Gay marriage is rapidly becoming less and less controversial, at least in the Western world. Yes, the battle hasn’t been won just yet, both in Europe and in the US, but we are getting there at a pace that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
So I just got done watching Spike Jonze’s recent sci-fi epic film Her and I feel as if my mind is, metaphorically of course, absolutely blown away. The film far exceeded my expectations of how it would make me feel, let alone make me think! I found myself wanting to tell everyone I knew to stop what they were doing and take the time to really watch it, listen to it, absorb it. I spoke of other great films which captured my heart and my brain, like Robot and Frank, but no film thus far has achieved what Spike Jonze's Her achieves.
In The Tyranny of Happiness, the last chapter of Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream, the philosopher and bioethicist Carl Elliott explores how the ideal of a happy life can be systematically imposed to people under specific circumstances. Making myself clearer, in the aforesaid essay, Elliott employs a critical analysis of the pursuit for a happy life in the American society since about the period of the Declaration of Independence until the present days.
At a UCLA workshop attended by yours truly and other future watchers, the late physicist Dr. Robert Forward told the group that further understanding of the cosmos would one day enable man to travel through time. “Given the money and mandate,” Forward said, “in the not-too-distant future, a time machine will be built.” This workshop convened in 1983; now, 31 years later, scientists are edging ever closer towards realizing this bold prediction.
This author chose Butylated hydroxytoluene, BHT, to write about because it is an antioxidant and also possesses antiviral, antimicrobial, properties: thus as it is available at low cost it could offer a double bang for the buck. But then, as world-famous dentist Christian Szell would ask, “is it safe?”
Lately, there have be weird mumblings about secession coming from an unexpected corner. We’ve come to expect that there are hangers on to the fallen Confederate States of America, or Texans hankering after their lost independent Republic, but Silicon Valley? Really? The idea, at least at first blush, seems absurd.
Femen is notoriously well-known for its anti-authoritarian, anti-religion “top-free” protest activities in Europe, especially in the Ukraine (where they’re originally from) and in Paris, where they’re presently headquartered. Recent activities include disruption of a Catholic Christmas Mass in Cologne Cathedral in Germany, where Josephine – a Femen “sextremist” – clambered up and posed on the altar, arms widespread, with “I Am God” scrawled in black paint on her torso.
It has been only one year since the International Longevity Alliance (“ILA”) became consolidated in December 2012 at the Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging in Brussels. This is the first annual report of our progress since our inception. The ILA’s mission is to to promote the advancement of healthy longevity for all people through scientific research, technological development, medical treatment, public health, education, advocacy and social activism.
Thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath died on Dec. 12 at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Yet about a month later, Jahi is still on a ventilator because her parents refuse to accept her death. Aided by a misguided legal decision, she has been moved to another facility to be kept on artificial life support, which makes no medical or moral sense. What’s being done to her corpse is wrong, but a bigger issue is the threat her case poses to the rational and moral use of health care resources.
Here comes another post on ethics! This one is, I must admit, somewhat meta-ethical, despite my recent post about the limited value of meta-ethical discussions when it comes to debates in first-order ethics. As I pointed out in the discussion that followed that essay, it’s not that I don’t think that meta-ethics is interesting, it’s just that it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for refusing to get down and dirty about actual everyday moral questions.
Every year, tens of thousands of international tourists and researchers descend into the wilds of Madagascar in search of the rarest of the rare organisms on earth. Lemurs, lizards, and even lacewings are just some of the hundreds of endemic species making the island a critical global biodiversity hot spot. While I love spending time in the natural lands of the countryside, these are not the important organisms that I am seeking. I am searching for superorganisms.
A well-intentioned grandmother accidentally hurt her grandkids’ feelings. She took screenshots of their delightful Instagram photos and proudly uploaded them to Facebook for all of her social network friends to see. If the younger generation didn’t set their accounts to private, could Grandma possibly have committed a faux pas? All she did was lovingly pass along publicly available information!
Religions, because they in part contain Mankind’s longest reflections on human nature tend to capture this tragic condition of ultimately destructive competition between sentient beings with differing desires and wills, a condition which we may find are not only possessed by our fellow animals, but may be part of our legacy to any sentient machines that are our creations as well. Original sin indeed!
In late December, while marriage equality became law in New Mexico and Utah, a Washington vice principal and coach at a Catholic school got fired for marrying his partner, and a Philadelphia Methodist minister was defrocked because he performed a wedding ceremony for his son.
For people in cold climes, winter, with its short days and hibernation inducing frigidity, is a season to let one’s pessimistic imagination roam. It may be overly deterministic, but I often wonder whether those who live in climates that do not vary with the seasons, so that they live where it is almost always warm and sunny, or always cold and grim, experience less often over the course of a year the full spectrum of human sentiments and end up being either too utopian for reality to justify, or too dystopian for those lucky enough to be here and have a world to complain about in the first place.
Aside from “twerking” the only word that has made both the Oxford and Collins “word of the year” list is “Bitcoin”… and this is little wonder to anyone who has been following the story. In 2013 Bitcoin has caused nothing but greed, debate and bafflement in the online world. It has leapt in value, been accepted in an ever increasing array of stores… and at the start of December was at the heart of the biggest online robbery of all time. Have you been caught up in Bitcoin fever yet?
My greatest fear about the future is not of technology running out of control or posing existential risks to humankind. Rather, my greatest fear is that, in the year 2045, I will be 58 years old and already marked by notable signs of senescence, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking my morning coffee, and wondering, “What happened to that Singularity we were promised by now?
This is the third (and final) part in my ongoing series about the rationality of mind-uploading. The series deals with something called Searle’s Wager, which is an argument against the rationality of mind-uploading. The argument was originally developed by Nicholas Agar in his 2011 bookHumanity’s End. This series, however, covers a debate between Agar and Levy in the pages of the journal AI and Society. The first two parts discussed with Levy’s critique; this part discusses Agar’s response.
What's the economic issue we should focus on - jobs, or inequality? An increasing number of people, including the President and New York's new mayor, have suggested that inequality of wealth and opportunity is the defining issue of our time. But some of the folks at the Washington Post's "WonkBlog" are having none of it. First editor Ezra Klein declared that unemployment, not inequality, should be the left's defining issue. That drew responses from the likes of Paul Krugman and Jared Bernstein (and yours truly, here).
This is the second in a series of posts looking at Searle's Wager and the rationality of mind-uploading. Searle's Wager is an argument that was originally developed by the philosopher Nicholas Agar. It claims that uploading one's mind to a computer (or equivalent substrate) cannot be rational because there is a risk that it might entail death. I covered the argument on this blog back in 2011. In this series, I'm looking at a debate between Nicholas Agar and Neil Levy about the merits of the argument. The current focus is on Levy's critique.
It seems as though every day we grow closer to creating fully conscious and emergent artificial intelligences. As I’ve written about before, this poses a problem for many religions, especially those that ascribe a special place for humanity and for human consciousness in the cosmos. Buddhism stands out as an exception. Buddhism may be the one system of religious thought that not only accepts but will actively embrace any AIs that we produce as a species.
A couple of years ago I wrote a series of posts about Nicholas Agar’s book Humanity’s End: Why we should reject radical enhancement. The book critiques the arguments of four pro-enhancement writers. One of the more interesting aspects of this critique was Agar’s treatment of mind-uploading. Many transhumanists are enamoured with the notion of mind-uploading, but Agar argued that mind-uploading would be irrational due to the non-zero risk that it would lead to your death. The argument for this was called Searle’s Wager, as it relied on ideas drawn from the work of John Searle.
This is the second and final part in my series on the different conceptions of political freedom. The series is working from Philip Pettit's article "The Instability of Freedom as Noninterference: The Case of Isaiah Berlin". In this article, Pettit analyses three different conceptions of political freedom—freedom as non-frustration; freedom as non-interference; and freedom as non-domination—and makes an argument for the non-domination conception.
Days may be dark right now—after all, as the memes proclaim, axial tilt is the reason for the season. But things are looking bright for those who would like to see humanity more grounded in science and reason. If you are a nontheist in the mood for a party, here are ten reasons to celebrate.
The 2nd amendment of the American Constitution gives U.S citizens the constitutional right to bear arms. Perhaps the most prominent justification given for the 2nd amendment is as a defense against tyrannical government, where citizens have a method of defending themselves against a corrupt government, and of taking their government back by force if needed by forming a citizen militia.