Our moral codes are rooted in preconscious feelings of disgust at people who hurt others, cheat, are disloyal, disobey authority, and violate social taboos. Some of these moral feelings support modern Enlightenment ideas of morality while others are in contradiction with modern values of individual rights and critical thought. By illuminating the ways that our value systems are shaped by prerational impulses we can make more conscious choices about how to build a fair society and practice the civic virtues of fairness and engaged citizenship. But we also can begin to experiment with ways to enhance our moral reasoning with drugs and devices to become even better citizens than previously possible.
How’s this for a 21st century Valentine’s Day tale: a group of religious fundamentalists want to redefine human sexual and gender relationships based on a more than 2,000 year old religious text. Yet instead of doing this by aiming to seize hold of the cultural and political institutions of society, a task they find impossible, they create an algorithm which once people enter their experience is based on religiously derived assumptions users cannot see. People who enter this world have no control over their actions within it, and surrender their autonomy for the promise of finding their “soul mate”.
The English philosopher A.J. Ayer (1910 – 1989) and the American philosopher Charles Stevenson (1908 – 1979) developed a different version of subjectivism. Emotivism is a theory that claims that moral language or judgments: 1) are neither true or false; 2) express our emotions; and 3) try to influence others to agree with us. To better understand emotivism, consider the following statements…
In “Virtual reality a new frontier for religions,” published yesterday on Hypergrid Business, I argue that massively popular virtual churches, place of worship and spiritual communities in Virtual Reality (VR) will be developed with next-generation VR systems.
If morality is not relative to culture, might it be relative to a person’s beliefs, attitudes, emotions, opinions, desires, wants, etc.? Personal relativismis a theory that holds that moral judgments are relative to, conditioned by, or dependent upon, individuals. This theory has ancient roots, but it’s also popular today.2 These remarks capture the basic idea:
Taken as a package, the Bible sends mixed messages about slavery, which is why Christian leaders used the Good Book on both sides—including in the lead up to the American civil war. Should a person be able to own another person? Today Christians uniformly say no, and many would like to believe that has always been the case. But history tells a different story, one in which Christians have struggled to give a clear answer when confronted with questions about human trafficking and human rights.
We’ve put together the survey on transhumanism strategy to reveal the inner discussion inside the transhumanist movement. Our goal is to inspire the people to act. We believe the greatest sin in our field is wishful thinking. It’s when a person is saying that it would be good to do something, like for instance, to shoot a viral video, but at the same time this person is not doing anything. His or hers advice has to be implemented in real life somehow on its own.
Cultural moral relativism is the theory that moral judgments or truths are relative to cultures. Consequently, what is right in one society may be wrong in another and vice versa. (For culture, you may substitute: nation; society; group, sub-culture, etc.) This is another theory with ancient roots. Herodotus, the father of history, describes the Greeks encounter with the Callatians who ate their dead relative. Naturally, the Greeks found this practice revolting. But the Callatians were equally repelled by the Greek practice of cremation causing Herodotus to conclude that ethics is culturally relative.
Nine out of ten Americans have fallen behind financially as the well-to-do – especially the ultra-wealthy – capture an ever-increasing chunk of our national income. This inequality threatens the entire economy’s future growth and stability. But whenever someone offers a solution to this growing problem, someone else on the right is likely to accuse them of “class war.”
Ethics is that part of philosophy which deals with the good and bad, or right and wrong in human conduct. It asks questions like: What is morality? Is morality objective or subjective? What is the relationship between self-interest and morality? Why should I be moral?
In January, the New York Times highlighted how insecticide treated nets meant to protect people from mosquitoes and malaria are now being used to haul fish in Africa. Among those using these nets to catch fish, hunger today is a bigger risk than malaria tomorrow.
Many worry that radical life extension or the elimination of death will lead to overpopulation and ecological destruction. In other words, while it may be best for individuals to live forever, it might be collectively disastrous. Readers may recognize this situation as an instance of the “tragedy of the commons.” Acting in their apparent self-interest, individuals destroy a common good. It may be convenient for individuals to pollute the air, earth, and water, but eventually this is catastrophic for all. However, I don’t believe that overpopulation and its attendant problems should give researchers in this area pause. Here are some reasons why.
We have become a profoundly unequal society. That reality is explored in new detail in a recent study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). Even more importantly, the INET study shows that it will take a dramatic shift in policy to restore the equilibrium. Unless we can build momentum for a new political agenda, we’ll be divided into a small minority with fabulous wealth and a permanent underclass with few hopes or prospects.
From Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning by Martin Rees, Royal Society Professor at Cambridge and England’s Royal Astronomer. “Twenty-first century science may alter human beings themselves - not just how they live.” (9) Rees accepts the common wisdom that the next hundred years will see changes that dwarf those of the past thousand years, but he is skeptical about specific predictions.
The world is shifting in more ways than one. With the advent of our Transhumanist journey into the future, everything we knew of the old world is dramatically changing before our very eyes. For this article in particular, however, I’d like to direct my attention towards religion.
It’s just possible that there is a looming crisis in yet another technological sector whose proponents have leaped too far ahead, and too soon, promising all kinds of things they are unable to deliver. It strange how we keep ramming our head into this same damned wall, but this next crisis is perhaps more important than deflated hype at other times, say our over optimism about the timeline for human space flight in the 1970’s, or the “AI winter” in the 1980’s, or the miracles that seemed just at our fingertips when we cracked the Human Genome while pulling riches out of the air during the dotcom boom- both of which brought us to a state of mania in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
On November 1-2, 2014, there took place in Beijing, China, the first International Conference on Aging and Disease (ICAD) of the International Society on Aging and Disease (ISOAD, http://isoad.org/). It showcased some of the latest advances in aging and longevity research, including regenerative medicine, geroprotective substances and regimens.
Yesterday, I posted a piece examining the oft-quoted mortality rate for measles of one to two deaths per thousand cases of infection. Today, I want to look at what can be learned from more recent and more comprehensive dataset – this one from the 2008-2011 measles outbreak in France.
Every day brings more headlines in the European debt drama: “Greece elects anti-austerity government.” “Greek Finance Minister says he won’t negotiate with the ‘Troika.’” “Anti-austerity movements gain ground across Europe.”
Unless you’ve been under a rock or on a boat in the middle of the ocean1, you’re aware that the United States is in the middle of a measles outbreak that has, so far, infected over 100 people, and was traced back to December Disneyland visits.
You may have heard of the Marquis de Condorcet (Nicolas de Condorcet). He was an 18th century French philosopher, mathematician and social theorist. He was a champion of the Enlightenment, and a leading participant in the French revolution. He is probably most famous today for three things. First, his jury theorem which showed how, under certain conditions, majority voting can get us closer to the truth. Second, his voting method which proposed that winners of elections be determined by pairing each candidate against every other candidate and figuring out who won each of those contests.
In a previous article, I critiqued the two primary definitions of “existential risk” found in the literature, and then hinted at a new definition to replace them. Part of my critique centered on how the relevant group affected by an existential catastrophe is demarcated, e.g., as “our entire species,” “Earth-originating intelligent life,” or “either our current population or some future population of descendants that we value.” (I prefer the latter because it solves the problems of “good” and “bad” extinction that the first two encounter.) I want to put aside the issue of demarcation in this article and focus exclusively on the nature of existential risks themselves (that is, independent of who exactly they impact).
We all, as individuals and members of societies, dedicate a lot of effort to finding ways to cope with the idea of death. Most believers in traditional Western religions imagine resurrection in an afterlife, where they will be forever reunited with loved ones. Most believers in traditional Eastern religions and spiritual traditions think that, while an otherworldly realm beyond physical reality may eventually be attained, most people go through a long string of lives here on Earth (reincarnation).
Strolling the streets before Loncon, I saw how the London world works: Autocratic hypercapitalism (Russia, China, some of southeast Asia) without Western checks and balances produces new elites whose dream is then an American or British lifestyle, with education for their children. Having made it big in autocratic countries with corrupt legal systems (if that), a cowed press and rampant corruption, oligarchs and crony capitalists wake up one day and find that they like nothing as much as democratic systems under the rule of law held accountable by an independent press.
Democracies are the preferred form of modern government. Democracies pay homage to the notion that we are all moral equals. This means that no one human has an intrinsic right to exercise domination or control over another. No one human has the right to impose coercive rules on others.
Tweeting, like driving, creates perils that become more dangerous as we age, and the more stature or visibility people attain, the more they have to lose. In history books, Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins will be known for his contributions to science. But you’d never know that based on the last two years of his media coverage, which have centered on a series of controversial tweets, mostly about women and Islam. The tweets, and Dawkins’ attempts to defend them have provoked fierce debate between atheists about whether his visibility as an advocate for secularism has become a liability to the cause.