I came from a family of writers and always figured that storytelling would be my artistic side-line… most scientists have one. I knew science would be harder that storytelling and I respected it more, drawn to the Enlightenment’s greatest project. After all, every culture has had storytellers, but only one ever invested heavily in training a myriad brave investigators to find out heartofthecometwhat’s actually true, despite our preconceptions
The health prospects of humanity are influenced by many things. There are extrinsic factors like poverty, violence, and infectious disease that can cause humans to die. There are also intrinsic factors, like the constraints of our biology (e.g. aging). The role these different factors play in causing disease and death in the world changes over time. The greater success we have with combating extrinsic risks, the greater the impact intrinsic risks have on our health prospects.
Death looms large for most of us, even if we try not to think about it. But should we be worried at the prospects of our eventual demise? Should we do everything we can to avoid it (e.g. by opting for cryopreservation)? Or should we approach it with indifference and equanimity?
The exponential rise in energy prices over the last 10 years is seen as the beginning of a new era in which energy prices will remain high for an extended period. Several factors have driven this trend, including the rapid growth in demand for energy in developing countries such as China and India; the depletion of easily accessible supplies of oil; and the higher cost of extracting oil from deep oceans, remote areas, and politically unstable regions.
Elyn Saks first started noticing that something was wrong when she was 16. One day, and without reason, she suddenly left her classroom and started walking home. It turned into an agonizing journey in which she believed all the houses in her neighborhood were transmitting hostile and insulting messages directly into her brain. Five years later, while attending law school at Oxford, she experienced her first complete schizophrenic break. Saks struggled over the course of the next decade, but she came through thanks to medication, therapy, and the support of friends and family.
1: Future of civilization: the incredible possibilities, by Dick Pelletier 2: Cyborgs can live without a pulse : The amazing story of the new techno hearts that literally drops your pulse! by Manoj VR 3: New Chapters by Jamais Cascio 4: NEXT! by Dale Brownfield 5: Core 21c Skillset: Data Literacy by Melanie Swan
I am writing to urge the international community to come to the aid of the Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea as it grapples with the menace of witchcraft or sorcery related violence. Witch persecution and killing has been going on in the country for too long and we cannot allow it to continue.
We need to take action now!
This is the second part in a brief series looking at whether human enhancement — understood as the use of scientific knowledge and technology to improve the human condition — would rob our lives of meaning and value. The focus is on David Owens’s article “Disenchantment”. The goal is to clarify the arguments presented by Owens, and to subject them to some critical scrutiny.
One of the unfortunate truths of the climate crisis we’re in is that when we finally stop making things worse, it won’t suddenly make things better. The carbon dioxide we’ve put into the atmosphere and the oceans will persist for hundreds, even thousands of years; temperatures will remain high; many ecosystems will be permanently disrupted; and species driven to extinction—well, they’ll still be extinct. The eventual return to a planetary equilibrium won’t happen on anything approaching a human timescale.
Millian liberals are not fond of upstream laws. All things being equal we would, for example, rather ban firing guns at people than ban owning guns. The latter has a far greater effect on people’s liberty (it affects a lot of people who don’t actually fire guns at other people, for example, and it affects a lot of conduct that will not necessarily cause anyone any harm). Putting it another way, we’re wary of laws about indirect harms.
Today, drones, eldercare and pets. Tomorrow, household servants, love partners and much more. Although some people might find the idea of love with a machine repulsive, experts predict that as the technology advances and robots become more human-like, we will view our silicon cousins in a friendlier light.
Historians, scientists and poets alike have written that the human being strives for the infinite. In the old days this meant that it strives to become one with the god who created and rules the world. As atheism began to make strides, Schopenhauer rephrased the concept as a “will to power”. Nietzsche confirmed that god is dead, and the search for “infinite” became a mathematical and scientific program instead of a mystical one. Russell, Hilbert and others started a logical program that basically aimed at making it easy to prove and discover everything that can be.
This term I am teaching my graduate level seminar “Science and Justice” to approximately 14 (mostly) MA and PhD students from political science, philosophy and psychology here at Queen’s. It’s my favorite course to teach (I also teach an undergrad version of it as well) and we address a number of ethical and social issues related to the genetic revolution.
As the dawn of 2013 marks the beginning of another revolution of our planet around the sun, let us draw our attention beyond the sphere of everyday life – beyond individual concerns, national issues, and even global concerns – towards the cosmic scale of affairs. Take this moment to consider the place of humanity in the grand scheme of the universe.
The story has gone viral: A group got together at Applebees. When the tab came the minister wrote on the ticket, “I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?” She scratched through the automatic large-group tip and substituted a fat zero and signed it with the word “Pastor” in front of her name. The waitress posted an image on Reddit. The pastor called to complain. The waitress got fired. The internet went wild. Last I saw, one story had 80,000 comments and counting.
Although there are some enthusiasts, many people I talk to are deeply ambivalent about the prospects of human enhancement, particularly in its more radical forms. To be sure, this ambivalence might be rooted in human prejudice and bias toward the status quo, but I’m curious to see whether there is any deeper, more persuasive reason to share that unease.
Lately I have been on a quest for a more mindful and ethical way of living, particularly as regards my buying habits. It is not easy, I tell you. Yes, there are — of course — apps for that, but let’s not kid ourselves. Trying be more ethical (or at least less unethical) requires work and will likely cost you more than if you don't give a crap about the environment, workers’ conditions, or the use that corporations make of the money you send their way when you buy their products.
Why the U.S. Civil War -relates to Sci Fi. Each night in November we watched Ken Burns's CIVIL WAR documentary with our 16 year old. A terrific work of high-class, dramatic and enriching media, very highly recommended. Still, I felt the documentary was a bit light on the underlying causes of a national trauma that is resonating within and among Americans.
Whom the gods would destroy, the old saying says, they first make mad. And there’s no quicker way to become completely untethered than to read economic reports, including the latest one from the Congressional Budget Office, and then watch the political debate go on as if reality didn’t even exist.
This is the second (and final) part in my series looking at the arguments from Muehlhauser and Helm’s (MH’s) paper “The Singularity and Machine Ethics”. As noted in part one, proponents of the Doomsday Argument hold that if a superintelligent machine (AI+) has a decisive power advantage over human beings, and if the machine has goals and values that are antithetical to the goals and values that we human beings think are morally ideal, then it spells our doom. The naive response to this argument is to claim that we can avoid this outcome by programming the AI+ to “want what we want”. One of the primary goals of MH’s paper is to dispute the credibility of this response. The goal of this series of blog posts is to clarify and comment upon the argument they develop.
The rise in reported cases of people being born with conditions on the Autism Spectrum indicate a possible evolutionary trait: a mutation that enhances the ability of the most powerful tool the human animal has – its mind. Instead of working toward a cure for ASD, we should be harnessing the collective power of these genius minds to fundamentally change our society. We need to evolve or die.
I held out for a long time, longer than pretty much everyone I know. But eventually I joined Facebook. In fact, I held out for so long that, by the time I joined, a bunch of my friends were already deep into the “how the fuck do I actually DELETE my account FOREVER?!” backlash.
I've wanted to write about the always highly contentious topic of guns for a long time (RS has covered the issue before: here and here, but I have never written about it). The aftermath of last week’s horrific events seems like a good time to do it (despite repeated calls from conservative quarters that it is “too soon” to do so, whatever that means). This essay cannot come even close to being comprehensive enough to cover all relevant aspects of the debate, and as it is often the case for my writings here, it is more a way for me to clarify my own thoughts than anything else. Still, I hope people will find these reflections useful for further (much needed) discussion.
I am currently reading a monster of a book. At 802 pages, Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, leaves even a voracious reader like myself a little winded. Pinker’s argument is that the world has become less and less violent over time, so much so that we now live in what is the most peaceful period of human history ever.