This is the second (and final) post in my short series on Michael Hauskeller’s article “Forever Young? Life Extension and the Ageing Mind”. In the article, Hauskeller casts a critical eye over the life extensionist project. According to many leading proponents of life extension, the goal is not just to prolong life indefinitely, but to prolong youth. Hauskeller argues that this goal is unobtainable because youth is dependent on both mind and body. And although it may be possible to halt the aging of the body, it will never be possible to halt the aging of the mind.
If we look back to the early days when the Internet was first exploding into public consciousness, in the 1980’s, and even more so in the boom years of the 90’s, what we often find is a kind of utopian sentiment around this new form of “space”. It wasn’t only that a whole new plane of human interaction seemed to be unfolding into existence almost overnight, it was that “cyberspace” seemed poised to swallow the real world- a prospect which some viewed with hopeful anticipation and others with doom.
Needs will almost always come before wants. When it comes to Transhumanism, the ability to differentiate the two tends to blur, because a need could also be a want, depending on the various methods of achieving a need. There’s the “getting by” need, and then there’s the “thriving” need.
There are a lot of people out there who would prefer not to die. There are also many people trying to make this a reality by working seriously on the science of life extension. The goal, it would seem, is to reverse (or at least halt) the aging process, and allow us to live indefinitely. Let’s call the people who share this goal the “extensionists”.
I have worked a number of years in trauma and emergency medicine, and have learned a few lessons about human nature along the way that I think may be of benefit to others. Our tendency as human beings to carry around an Optimism Bias is probably one of our most deadly traits.
Did anyone see the World War Z scene where the zombies reach the top of a massive zombie-proof wall and start pouring over? The same thing has finally happened to Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state. Council members in Pierce County, Washington got busted last week because they allocated taxpayer dollars to fund not one, but two evangelical missionary organizations that target public school kids for conversion.
This is the second post in a brief series looking at the philosophy of mental illness. As noted in part one, some people are suspicious about the concept of mental “illness”. To call something an illness is to deem it worthy of medical scrutiny and treatment. This makes sense — so they argue — when dealing with things like broken bones, viruses, clotted arteries, bacterial infections, cancerous tumours and so forth. They all involve clear, objectively assessable physical effects and causes. Mental illness is not the same: it involves more nebulous, less tractable effects and causes, ones that are not always open to the same level of objective assessment.
Radical life extension is coming. That means future societies will have to do a dramatic rethink of our ideas about how long offenders should be imprisoned and — more crucially — the ways they’ll be rehabilitated.
It may be a push, but I think it is fair to say that no branch of modern medicine faces the same existential challenges as psychiatry. To give a sense of the problem, a quick browse through Amazon reveals aplethoraofbooks, many published within the past ten years, that either directly challenge the legitimacy of mental illness, call into question the medicalisation of the mind, or dispute the unholy alliance between “pharma” and psychiatry.
In The American Way of War, historian Russell Weigley describes a grinding strategy of destruction employed by the U.S. military over the last 150 years. To end the Civil War, Grant felt he had to destroy lee’s soldiers; in World War I, Pershing relentlessly bombarded and wore down Germany’s proud fighting machine; and the Army Air Corps pulverized major German and Japanese cities to win World War II.
Many transhumanist factions point out a need to gain some form of longevity or even immortality. The most common forms are mind upload, life extending drugs and treatments, body part replacement with prosthetics or “spare parts” and lastly, cryonics.
When our most precious and hard fought for successes give rise to yet more challenges life is revealing its Sisyphean character. We work as hard as we can to roll a rock up a hill only to have it crush us on the way down. The stones that threatens us this time are two of our global civilization’s greatest successes- the fact that children born are now very likely to live into old age and the fact that we have stretched out this old age itself so that many, many more people are living into ages where in the past the vast majority of their peers would be dead. These two demographic revolutions when combined form the basis of what I am calling the Longevity Crisis. Let’s take infant mortality first.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other “omics” profiles and integrating these data with the individuals’ health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without pain relief. We depend on these drugs to an unspeakable degree, yet few of us know what’s available or how they even work. Here’s a quick primer on painkillers and why they’re so good at easing the pain.
Former pro football* player Brett Favre recently admitted he’s suffering serious memory loss from years of head injuries while playing."I don't remember my daughter playing soccer, youth soccer, one summer. I don't remember that,” Favre said in a radio interview.
Percy’s epic poem, Prometheus Unbound is seldom read today while his wife’s novel, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus has become so well known that her monster graces the boxes of children’s cereal, and became the fodder from one of the funniest movies of the 20th century.
There is an overwhelming trend in the world of warfare today, which is to move combat to remote operated systems first, and then to autonomous platforms, in the very near future. We are told that the precision of these tools is without comparisons in the world and their implementation will reduce casualties (both military and civilians), as well as collateral damage, resulting in a more humane battlefield.
Human beings have long performed sexual acts with artifacts. Ancient religious rituals oftentimes involved the performance of sexual acts with statues, and down through the ages a vast array of devices for sexual stimulation and gratification have been created. Little wonder then that a perennial goal among roboticists and AI experts has been the creation of sex robots (“sexbots”): robots from whom we can receive sexual gratification, and with whom we may even be able achieve an emotional connection.
Joel Garreau, in Radical Evolution, lays out three possibilities, all stemming from Ray Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns.” Garreau focuses on the so-called GRIN technologies: Genetics, Robotics, Information, and Nano-Technology. He sees a world where the understanding of our biological programming (genetics), allows us to build tiny robots (nano-technology, robotics) as an artificial immune system that can be updated wirelessly no matter where you are (information). In other words, he feels all four of these technologies will converge to change the rules of the human condition—for better or for worse.
A new study spearheaded at Columbia University aims to provide parents with more information about their unborn children—including potential abnormalities and genetic defects. Spread across 10 different research hospitals that plan to secure 1,000 women each to participate, knowledge gained from the study will contribute to the ethical dialogue surrounding what parents do with more prenatal testing data.
Time recently ran a cover story titled, “Can Google Solve Death?” The wording was a bit much, as the subject of the piece, Google’s new firm Calico, has more modest ambitions, like using “tools like big data to determine what really extends lives.” But even if there won’t be an app for immortality any time soon, we’re increasingly going to have to make difficult decisions about when human limits should be pushed and how to ensure ethics keeps pace with innovation.
Memory Detection Tests (MDTs) are a general class of psychophysiological tests that can be used to determine whether someone remembers a particular fact or datum. The P300 MDT is a type of MDT that relies on a presumed correlation between the presence of a detectable neural signal (the P300 “brainwave”) in a test subject, and the recognition of those facts in the subject’s mind.
This series is a discussion of how we take responsibility for the birds and the beasts and the fields and the oceans and whatever Genesis left out (for example, the Bible doesn’t mention the atmosphere). It’s time for some discussion of the future of animals and how we’ll use them.
The technological revolution gives us an opportunity to view questions of social justice differently. One example pertains to the handicapped. We now see them as needy unfortunates; objects of social and humanitarian concern rather than autonomous subjects capable of managing their own lives.
Former Kansas City Star reporter Martin Manley committed a very public suicide in August. The story captured my attention for two reasons: (1) I used to work in the newsroom of the Kansas City Star and (2) I started thinking about Manley’s death in relation to transhumanism.
As much as I respect Pres. Obama’s senior advisor on science and technology, John Holdren, on his work in fighting against climate change, I’ve come to find out that his political beliefs are almost interrelated with that of Maoist-Third-Worldism (an extremist Leftist ideology).
Research may one day lead to better understanding of consciousness… Imagine you’re a mouse, and you’re feeling a chill throughout your body because a researcher is placing you into a chamber. You distinctly remember feeling shocks in that chamber…
There have been glowing reviews at the IEET of Zoltan Istvan’sThe Transhumanist Wager. This will not be one of those. As I will argue, if you care about core transhumanist concerns, such as research into pushing out the limits of human mortality, little could be worse than the publication of Istvan’s novel. To put it sharply in terms of his so-called First Law of Transhumanism “A transhumanist must safeguard his own existence above all else”; Istvan, by creating a work that manages to disparage and threaten nearly every human community on earth has likely shortened the length of your life