If we extended our lives by 200 years, or if we succeeded in uploading our minds to an artificial substrate, would we undermine our sense of personal identity? If so, would it be wiser to avoid such radical forms of enhancement? These are the questions posed in chapter 4 of Nicholas Agar’s book Truly Human Enhancement. Over the next two posts I’ll take a look at Agar’s answers. This is all part of my ongoing series of reflections on Agar’s book.
I recently published an article in the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of sex work and technological unemployment (available here, here and here). It began by asking whether sex work, specifically prostitution (as opposed to other forms of labour that could be classified as “sex work”, e.g. pornstar or erotic dancer), was vulnerable to technological unemployment. It looked at contrasting responses to that question, and also included some reflections on technological unemployment and the basic income guarantee.
We asked whether “artificial general intelligence with self-awareness” or “uploaded personalities or emulations of human brains” were more of a threat to human beings. Almost three times as many of you thought AGI was more of a threat than uploaded personalities, and overall 62% of the 245 respondents thought one or the other or both were a threat.
Humans are classified by biologists as Great Apes, along with orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. And geneticists inform us that we share 98 percent of our DNA with chimps. Yet all the Great Apes are in jeopardy. They are being wantonly killed, sometimes unnecessarily used for research, captured for zoos, and illegally sold as pets.
Before deciding how to define and proceed with modern definitions of personhood beyond the human, it will help to see how personhood has been defined historically—especially with regard to several ancient androids, because in their day they presented the best case for individuals who might have had, by the time’s definitions, the chance to be considered fully human.
Looking to create more accurate experimental models for human diseases, biologists have created transgenic monkeys with “customized” mutations. It’s considered a breakthrough in the effort to produce more human-like monkeys — but the ethics of all this are dubious at best.
We asked “How long should caregivers prevent recently disabled people from refusing life-sustaining care (and thereby causing their own deaths)?” Of the more than 230 of you who answered, almost half (47%) said “The recently disabled should be treated until they are no longer depressed, and have a sustained, rational intent to die.”
Her is a great movie that I fully recommend. And as a movie it really only has one mandate: create an emotional impact on its audience. And by this metric Her succeeds wonderfully. However, how internally consistent is Her? How much sense does it make from the point of view of speculation? As it stands, Her actually does better than most science fiction movies. But it’s not perfect.
Gay marriage is rapidly becoming less and less controversial, at least in the Western world. Yes, the battle hasn’t been won just yet, both in Europe and in the US, but we are getting there at a pace that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
So I just got done watching Spike Jonze’s recent sci-fi epic film Her and I feel as if my mind is, metaphorically of course, absolutely blown away. The film far exceeded my expectations of how it would make me feel, let alone make me think! I found myself wanting to tell everyone I knew to stop what they were doing and take the time to really watch it, listen to it, absorb it. I spoke of other great films which captured my heart and my brain, like Robot and Frank, but no film thus far has achieved what Spike Jonze's Her achieves.
Femen is notoriously well-known for its anti-authoritarian, anti-religion “top-free” protest activities in Europe, especially in the Ukraine (where they’re originally from) and in Paris, where they’re presently headquartered. Recent activities include disruption of a Catholic Christmas Mass in Cologne Cathedral in Germany, where Josephine – a Femen “sextremist” – clambered up and posed on the altar, arms widespread, with “I Am God” scrawled in black paint on her torso.
In late December, while marriage equality became law in New Mexico and Utah, a Washington vice principal and coach at a Catholic school got fired for marrying his partner, and a Philadelphia Methodist minister was defrocked because he performed a wedding ceremony for his son.
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”.
In a forthcoming episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast, Julia and I discuss the philosophy and science of suicide, i.e. what empirical inquiry tells us about suicides (who commits them, how, what are the best strategies for prevention) and how philosophical reflection may lead us to think of suicide. In this post I will focus on the philosophical side of the discussion, for which an excellent summary source, with a number of additional references, is this article by Michael Cholbi in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, to which I will keep referring below.
At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia. When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister. “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said. “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.
Joseph Carvalko, polymath, has authored a new book entitled “The Techno-Human Shell: A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap”. Carvalko is a lawyer, an engineer, a musician, and an inventor who currently holds 10 patents in the fields of electronics, biomedicine and financial services. His new book, an exploration of Transhumanist topics, focuses on implantable device technology as well as legal and ethical aspects of the transition to post-humanity.
An ardent objection common to human enhancement and transhumanism is that it is both perilous and foolhardy to try to ‘play God’, or to question the wisdom of Mother Nature. As with most mental shortcuts, there is some truth in the ‘nature knows best’ argument. Cognitive enhancement, perhaps the most challenging and promising of all, is no mean feat. Naïve intervention into the mechanisms of the most complex system in the known universe could disrupt the delicately poised equilibrium struck by evolution over millions of years with unknown consequences.
This paper argues on behalf of a posthuman future that is intimately tied to the use of human enhancement technology. It presents three principal justifications for enhancement, which focus on functionality, creative expression, and the ritual of re-making the self through biological modification. Collectively, these aspirations articulate the values surrounding posthuman life and the pursuit of biocultural capital.
Chemical castration has been legally recognised and utilised as a form of treatment for certain types of sex offender for many years. This is in the belief that it can significantly reduce recidivism rates amongst this class of offenders. Its usage varies around the world. Nine U.S. states currently allow for it, as well as several European countries. Typically, it is presented as an “option” to sex offenders who are currently serving prison sentences. The idea being that if they voluntarily submit to chemical castration they can serve a reduced sentence.
I’ve heard you are interested in the topics of aging and longevity. This is very cool, because fighting for radical life extension is the wisest and most humanitarian strategy. I would like to tell you what needs to be done, but, unfortunately, I haven’t got your email address, or any other way to be heard.
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.
I have previously based my own ethical approach to interactions with other species on Jeremy Bentham’s derivation of rights from the ability to suffer. Bentham was a British philosopher and the founder of utilitarian philosophy (utilitarianism is “a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering.”). As Bentham put it, “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
A third of respondents to the recent poll question “Should apes (chimps, gorillas, bonobos) and dolphins be liberated from zoos?” thought that apes and dolphins should be rehabilitated and returned to the wild. But two thirds favored other options.
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.
In his latest book, “Self Comes to Mind,” Dr. Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC, defines consciousness as, “the ability that we have to look out on the world and grasp it. It is a way evolution found to increase our effectiveness in dealing with life and its struggles.”
Picture a series of copper beads on a fine titanium alloy wire curved in a graceful sphere. It looks like an earring, but you won’t find it in a jewelry store. It’s made to go in your uterus. Intrauterine contraceptives are the fastest growing method of birth control in the U.S.One study showed that use doubled in just two years. Why are IUD’s suddenly hot among young women? And what should you tell your friend or daughter when she says she wants one?
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.