Wednesday on the Opinion Pages of The New York Times, the renowned Vinton Cerf - computer scientist, “father of the Internet”, Turing Award winner, and Google’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist - published an article titled Internet Access Is Not A Human Right. It could be argued that the key word here is “access”, but before I address access again, I should start with the definition of the internet.
Intelligence is being able to approach a new problem, recognize its important components, and solve it—then take that knowledge gained and put it towards solving the next, more complex problem. It’s about innovation and imagination, and about being able to put that to use to make the world a better place.
In this essay I would like to reflect on Eastern and Western philosophy, their definition of enlightenment, and their connection to transhumanist thinking. How may Buddhist concepts like ‘Bodhi’ and the ‘Maitreya’ relate to the Western ‘Enlightenment’, human enhancement, and post/transhumanism?
Eggs were first. Millions of years before mammals, eggs existed, their hard shells protecting the incubating embryo inside. Egg Mom wanders mobile, light in her anatomy—unlike her mammalian sister that waddles around, heavily crippled with the burden of her womb. Eggs were an evolutionary smart idea.
After much hard work, the editor of the Journal of Evolution and Technology, Russell Blackford, and IEET Fellow Linda MacDonald Glenn are pleased to announce that the special issue that they have been editing if coming online.
The morning-after pill known as Plan B is steeped in controversy again. The Department of Health and Human Services has taken the rare step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration and its science advisors and will not allow the pill to be sold over the counter in drugstores unless a woman can prove she is older than 17.
The new (December 2011/January 2012) issue of Free Inquiry features a set of articles on the prospects of human enhancement, and how these should be viewed by secular people. The positions range across the spectrum from enthusiastic to very resistant, and feature contributions by IEET’s Russell Blackford and James Hughes.
There is an unbelievable essay written - in apparent sincerity - by my colleague John C. Wright (a pretty good author, by the way), in which he asserts that the long darkness called feudalism was admirable, and that - by dismal contrast - we now live in an age that is benighted by crudely materialistic modernity and a shabby shallowness of the soul.
So, apparently there’s an Adderall drought going on the United States. Adderall is a prescription med that is used by people suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. It’s also being increasingly used as an off-label cognitive enhancer and for recreational purposes (which I’ll get to in just a little bit).
Enlightenment values presume an independent self, the rational citizen and consumer who pursues her self-interests. Since Hume, however, Enlightenment empiricists have questioned the existence of a discrete, persistent self. Today, continuing that investigation, neuroscience is daily eroding the essentialist model of personal identity. Transhumanism has yet to come to grips with the radical consequences of the erosion of the liberal individualist subject for projects of enhancement and longevity. Most transhumanist thought still reflects an essentialist idea of personal identity, even as we advance projects of radical cognitive enhancement that will change every element of consciousness. How do ethics and politics change if personal identity is an arbitrary, malleable fiction?
If you could take a pill that would instantly improve your memory or increase your ability to make sense of complex ideas, perhaps even make discoveries worthy of a Nobel prize, would you? What if you could enhance your capacity to assimilate new languages in a fraction of the time than would otherwise be necessary to become fluent? Answers to these questions may now become more urgent as a range of cognitive enhancements are quickly becoming available via pharmaceutical research.
More than 80 transhumanist avatars stormed the virtual world of Second Life for a community event organized by Humanity+ on September 15. This has been by far the largest virtual transhumanist event that I have seen, and I believe I have seen them all.