When is it ethically acceptable to harm another sentient being? On some fairly modest assumptions, to harm or kill someone simply on the grounds they belong to a different gender, sexual orientation or ethnic group is unjustified. Such distinctions are real but ethically irrelevant. On the other hand, species membership is normally reckoned an ethically relevant criterion. Fundamental to our conceptual scheme is the pre-Darwinian distinction between “humans” and “animals”.
If Thomas Friedman didn’t exist, America’s high-tech entrepreneurs would have had to invent him. Come to think of it, maybe they did. The dark science-fiction vision he celebrates serves them well, at pretty much everyone else’s expense. Friedman’s vision is worth studying, if only because it reflects the distorted perspective of some very wealthy and influential people. In their world the problems of the many are as easily fixed as a line of code, with no sacrifice required of them or their fellow billionaires.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) wants us to eat insects. The international agency recently reported that there are more than 1,400 species of recorded edible bugs. It turns out that many varieties are rather nutritious. A serving of grasshoppers, for instance, provides nearly the same amount of protein as ground beef. And insects can be farmed more inexpensively, on much less land and using less water.
In the recent IEET survey we asked “When there are safe cures for these conditions should parents be legally obliged to provide them for their children?” and offered examples ranging from cerebral palsy to ADD. The more than 500 respondents were surprisingly supportive of legal obligations to provide these treatments to children, with majorities in support of all the treatments. Of course some of you were more supportive than others.
Singularity topics, being in many ways theories of everything, and Transhumanist topics, being relevantly political and ethical, are subject matters that lend themselves to broad conceptual discourse, often of, and related to existentialism. Mark Coeckelbergh’s publication Human Being @ Risk: Enhancement, Vulnerability, and the Evaluation of Vulnerability Transformations, is a thoughtful and bold exercise in relating Transhumanist discourse to historic and present day academic existentialism and anthropology, and offers a considered evaluation of core Transhumanist beliefs.
One of the greatest feats of the human brain is its ability to filter a vast amount of information into a manageable stream of relevant information. Evolution has sculpted the course of this stream in order to maximize fitness, ensuring that we pay attention to things that are relevant for our survival and reproduction, and filter out irrelevant.
Imagine a machine that cleans house, sets the table, creates and serves meals, provides security, and expresses compliments that enhance our ego. This may sound like something out of The Jetsons, but researchers believe that we will one day share our homes with superintelligent household robots that crave to serve our every whim.
International trade has recovered since the economic crisis of 2008-2009 which initially resulted in a worldwide slump in demand and in the liquidity that fuels the movement of goods and services across borders. However, despite this global incremental recovery, slow output growth, high unemployment and economic uncertainty persist across the European Union, while other developed markets have struggled to return to their pre-crisis highs.
On the topic of autism, the two biggest areas of societal focus are first, the growing population of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) individuals (1/88 live births in the US; 66% college graduates on the ASD spectrum are unemployed), and second, providing resources for normalizing ASD individuals into day-to-day life activities such as work, housing, and dating.
Advocates of human enhancement often say that we ought to increase our intelligence as a species. But the consequences of actually doing this have never fully been explored. An excessive amount of intelligence might actually prove to be a bad thing — and a distraction from what really matters.
It is all too easy to assume that techno-optimists and techno-pessimists are diametrically opposed. But while they may have different destinations in mind, the road to get there – what they need to do to achieve their respective ends – is a shared one. Techno-optimists and technoprogressives express hope and passion for technologies’ liberating and empowering potentials, while techno-pessimists and neo-luddites* are fearful of their dystopic and dehumanizing potentials. Optimists want to spread awareness of the ways in which technology can improve self and society, while optimists seek to spread awareness of the ways in which technology can make matters worse.
Continuing from last time beyond revolutionizing physics Smolin’s goal in Time Reborn is the recovery of our human sense of time. What physics tells us is that there is no distinction between past, present and future. This, of course, collides with our natural sense of time- how we are prone to see ourselves as beings in time. For us, the past is what is behind us, over with, as mute to our desire to change it or have it to live over again as the sheer characteristics of existence such as space, light, energy. The present is where we are right now the location of our body and consciousness a fact that shoves us with it’s immediacy.
Suppose you are an athlete, training for the Olympic games. Your coach enters your changing room one morning and offers you a choice. You can either follow a rigorous training program for the next six months, or you can take a handful of magic pills and take the next six months off. Either way you’ll be prepared for the Olympic games. Which should you choose?
In our recent survey of the IEET audience you gave a clear sense of what your top priorities were: better communication and outreach, and the themes of mitigating catastrophic risks, and promoting the basic income guarantee, the longevity dividend and technoprogressivism.
This is a story that hasn’t been covered yet, as far as we know: Alan Grayson is fighting for the right of US troops in the Middle East to read any online news outlet they want - including the one that keeps breaking new stories about the NSA.
Time to reconsider the relationship between science and the supernatural. A number of colleagues in both science and philosophy argue that the supernatural is nothing special, that god-related hypotheses can be tested by ordinary scientific methods, and that — given the repeated failure of such tests — the only rational conclusion is that science has pretty much shown that there is no such thing as the supernatural.
Prior to this weekend, (#)Sharknado took audiences by storm (sorry for audacious puns, but they’re all in the spirit of this new phenomenon). Listed under IMDB as ‘TV Movie’ is probably the first clue of its outrageous premise, acting, and cinematic delivery.
But that's the conclusion people are getting from a story published initially at Mother Jones, and picked up around the web. The CIA—along with NASA, NOAA, and the National Academies of Sciences (NAS)—is funding a $630,000 NAS project to study geoengineering. Not how to do it, but what the broader ramifications are for global politics. The announcement at the NAS gives the details…
Do-It-Yourself scientists working in hackerspaces are positioned to make significant contributions with low overhead and little formal training (becoming necessary and valuable apprenticeship sites as the current higher education system deteriorates). The state has yet to heavily clamp down, but, because such freedom threatens the status quo, we can expect intervention to intensify.
I was a bit perplexed, to say the least, when I read Big Think blogger John N. Gray’s article “Immortality is a Waste of Time.” His entire argument revolved around the notion that, because of unknown contingencies throughout life, the act of curtailing death’s inevitability and infinity is thus a waste of time, money, thought and anxiety.
‘Making words illegal violates our freedom of speech!’ Of course it does. But that freedom, like many others, isn’t absolute. Our freedoms are limited freedoms. They are limited by several things (Joel Feinberg identifies six liberty-limiting principles), one of which is the harm principle. That is, when our action harms another person or society in general, it is limited. It is illegal.
Frederick Kaufman has penned a provocative article for Slate's Future Tense column in which he makes the case for open-source genetically modified foods. "It will help fight climate change," he says, "and stick one in Monsanto's eye." What's more, it's an approach that still favors scientific advancement.
“The year is 2032. You have just celebrated your 80th birthday and you have some tough decisions ahead. You can keep repairing your current body or move into a new one. The growing of ‘blank’ bodies has become one of the fastest advancing health industries in the world, and by using your own genetic material, body farmers can recreate your biological condition at age 20.” The above scenario was taken from “When Death Becomes Optional,” written by Google’s top-rated Futurist, Thomas Frey in a recent K21st article.
Of late, I’ve been thinking alot about time. I thought this was just a reflection of age until I stumbled across two recent books that see the question of time and our perception of it to be essential to solving many of the problems that plague us from the level of the individual all the way up to those of our global civilization.
As you may have observed, I’m repeatedly drawn to the enhancement debate. I can’t exactly say why. Prima facie, it doesn’t seem particularly interesting (from an intellectual perspective): after all, who could object to “enhancement”? But, of course, it’s more complicated than that. Indeed, one of the alluring aspects of the debate has to do with the terminology in which it is couched.
My last posting about Climate Change remediation got a lot of attention, positive and negative, so let me emphasize: I do not consider any form of "geoengineering" to be a substitute for responsibly investing in energy efficiency and finding ways to maintain a great civilization without ruining our planet.
When we started promoting the term “technoprogressive” as the IEET’s ideological position back in 2006 it helped us move beyond being the left wing of transhumanism to being part of a broader, deeper and older political current with roots in the Enlightenment. Our recent survey of the IEET audience helps us continue to flesh out what kinds of people are responding to the technoprogressive political project.
If you could take a pill that would make you more moral, would you do it? It sounds attractive. I know that I often fail to be as compassionate or as charitable as I ought to be. If there was some way for me to overcome these moral failings I would be inclined to take it. But if I took, say, a compassion-pill would my actions be tainted thereafter? Would they be less morally commendable than they might otherwise have been?