Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view



UPCOMING EVENTS: Cyber

Hughes, Wallach, Darling @ Societal Implications of Robotics Symposium (SIRoS)
May 1
Brown University, Providence, RI USA


The Global Brain and the Future Information Society
June 3-7
Vienna, Austria




MULTIMEDIA: Cyber Topics

Review of EX MACHINA

The Dawn of Killer Robots

AI, Transhumanism & Merging with Superintelligence

Data Mining: Twitter, Facebook and Beyond

A Debate on the Right to be Forgotten

Building Digital Trust: A New Architecture for Engineering Privacy (10 min)

The future is going to be wonderful (If we don’t get whacked by the existential risks)

Digital Rights Management

Government & Surveillance

Give Edward Snowden Clemency!

How The Grinch Stole an NFL Gnome – The Future of Manufacturing and Distribution

TechDebate: Lethal Autonomous (“Killer”) Robots

Terasem’s Lifenaut Project: Be The Author of Your Own Story

Futurists discuss The Transhumanist Wager

Transhumanism - Antecedents & the Future




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Cyber Topics




The Epistemic Costs of Superintelligence: Bostrom’s Treacherous Turn and Sceptical Theism

by John Danaher

An advanced artificial intelligence (a “superintelligence”) could pose a significant existential risk to humanity. Several research institutes have been set-up to address those risks. And there is an increasing number of academic publications analysing and evaluating their seriousness. Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies represents the apotheosis of this trend. In this article, I argue that in defending the credibility of AI risk, Bostrom makes an epistemic move that is analogous to one made by so-called sceptical theists in the debate about the existence of God. And while this analogy is interesting in its own right, what is more interesting is its potential implication. It has been repeatedly argued that sceptical theism has devastating effects on our beliefs and practices. Could it be that AI-doomsaying has similar effects? I argue that it could. Specifically, and somewhat paradoxically, I argue that it could lead to either a reductio of the doomsayers position, or an important and additional reason to join their cause. I use this paradox to suggest that the modal standards for argument in the superintelligence debate need to be addressed.

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Do Killer Robots Violate Human Rights?

by Patrick Lin

When machines are anthropomorphized, we risk applying a human standard that should not apply to mere tools.

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Should some conversations be suppressed?

by David Wood

Are there ideas which could prove so incendiary, and so provocative, that it would be better to shut them down? Should some concepts be permanently locked into a Pandora’s box, lest they fly off and cause too much chaos in the world?

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It’s Time to Destroy DRM

by Erick Vasconcelos

On January 20, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced the Apollo 1201 project, an effort to eradicate digital rights management (DRM) schemes from the world of Internet commerce. Led by well-known activist Cory Doctorow, the project aims to “accelerate the movement to repeal laws protecting DRM” and “kick-start a vibrant market in viable, legal alternatives to digital locks.” According to EFF, DRM technologies “threaten users’ security and privacy, distort markets, undermine innovation,” and don’t effectively protect so-called “intellectual property.”



#1 Editor’s Choice Award: Rule by Algorithm? Big Data and the Threat of Algocracy

by John Danaher

An increasing number of people are worried about the way in which our data is being mined by governments and corporations. One of these people is Evgeny Morozov. In an article that appeared in the MIT Technology Review back in October 2013, he argued that this trend poses a serious threat to democracy, one that should be resisted through political activism and “sabotage”. As it happens, I have written about similar threats to democracy myself in the past, so I was interested to see how Morozov defended his view.



Living in the Divided World of the Internet’s Future

by Rick Searle

Sony hacks, barbarians with FaceBook pages, troll armies, ministries of “truth”- it wasn’t supposed to be like this. When the early pioneers of what we now call the Internet freed the network from the US military they were hoping for a network of mutual trust and sharing- a network like the scientific communities in which they worked where minds were brought into communion from every corner of the world. It didn’t take long for some of the witnesses to the global Internet’s birth to see in it the beginnings of a global civilization, the unification, at last, of all of humanity under one roof brought together in dialogue by the miracle of a network that seemed to eliminate the parochialism of space and time.



Procedural Due Process and the Dangers of Predictive Analytics

by John Danaher

I am really looking forward to Frank Pasquale’s new book The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information. The book looks to examine and critique the ways in which big data is being used to analyse, predict and control our behaviour. Unfortunately, it is not out until January 2015. In the meantime, I’m trying to distract myself with some of Pasquale’s previously published material.



The Transhumanist Future of Sex (Crimes?)

by B. J. Murphy

On August 31 of this year, nearly 200 celebrities had their private images hacked and released for the entire world to see. These images ranged from the normal day-to-day activities, to their utmost private moments – from nudity to sex. This event hit both mainstream and social media airwaves, flooding the online sphere under the hashtags #Celebgate and the #Fappening.



The Future As History

by Rick Searle

It is a risky business trying to predict the future, and although it makes some sense to try to get a handle on what the world might be like in one’s lifetime, one might wonder what’s even the point of all this prophecy that stretches out beyond the decades one is expected to live? The answer I think is that no one who engages in futurism is really trying to predict the future so much as shape it, or at the very least, inspire Noah like preparations for disaster.



Google’s Cold Betrayal of the Internet

by Harry J. Bentham

Google Inc.’s 2013 book The New Digital Age, authored by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, was showered with praise by many, but attacked in a review by Julian Assange for the New York Times, where it is described as a “love song” from Google to the US state. Also addressed in Assange’s subsequent book When Google Met WikiLeaks, Google’s book makes an unconvincing effort to depict the internet as a double-edged sword, both empowering (p. 6) and threatening our lives (p. 7).



Don’t Diss Dystopias: Sci-fi’s warning tales are as important as its optimistic stories.

by Ramez Naam

This piece is part of Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University. On Thursday, Oct. 2, Future Tense will host an event in Washington, D.C., on science fiction and public policy, inspired by the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future. For more information on the event, visit the New America website; for more on Hieroglyph project, visit the website of ASU’s Project Hieroglyph.



Review: When Google Met WikiLeaks (2014) by Julian Assange

by Harry J. Bentham

Julian Assange’s 2014 book When Google Met WikiLeaks consists of essays authored by Assange and, more significantly, the transcript of a discussion between Assange and Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.



How to avoid drowning in the Library of Babel

by Rick Searle

Between us and the future stands an almost impregnable wall that cannot be scaled. We cannot see over it,or under it, or through it, no matter how hard we try. Sometimes the best way to see the future is by using the same tools we use in understanding the present which is also, at least partly, hidden from direct view by the dilemma inherent in our use of language.



Actually: You ARE the Customer, Not the Product

by Ramez Naam

Don’t believe the hype. You’re the customer, whether you pay directly or by seeing ads. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “On the internet, if you’re not paying for something, then you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”



Snowden, Sousveillance and Social T Cells

by David Brin

Wired has a long form interview with Edward Snowden: The Most-Wanted Man in the World. A must-read… as far as it goes. Only keep ahold of your ability to parse complexities and contradictions, because my reflex is always to point out aspects that were never raised. I refuse to choose one "side's" purist reflex.  So should you.



Emotion, Artificial Intelligence, and Ethics

by Kevin LaGrandeur

The growing body of work in the new field of “affective robotics” involves both theoretical and practical ways to instill – or at least imitate – human emotion in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and also to induce emotions toward AI in humans. The aim of this is to guarantee that as AI becomes smarter and more powerful, it will remain tractable and attractive to us. Inducing emotions is important to this effort to create safer and more attractive AI because it is hoped that instantiation of emotions will eventually lead to robots that have moral and ethical codes, making them safer; and also that humans and AI will be able to develop mutual emotional attachments, facilitating the use of robots as human companions and helpers. This paper discusses some of the more significant of these recent efforts and addresses some important ethical questions that arise relative to these endeavors.

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Cyberwarfare ethics, or how Facebook could accidentally make its engineers into targets

by Patrick Lin

Without clear rules for cyberwarfare, technology workers could find themselves fair game in enemy attacks and counterattacks. If they participate in military cyberoperations—intentionally or not—employees at Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Sprint, AT&T, Vodaphone, and many other companies may find themselves considered “civilians directly participating in hostilities” and therefore legitimate targets of war, according to the legal definitions of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.



Don’t fear the robot car bomb

by Patrick Lin

Within the next few years, autonomous vehicles—alias robot cars—could be weaponized, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fears. In a recently disclosed report, FBI experts wrote that they believe that robot cars would be “game changing” for law enforcement. The self-driving machines could be professional getaway drivers, to name one possibility. Given the pace of developments on autonomous cars, this doesn’t seem implausible.



Ways to make civilization robust

by David Brin

The resilience of our entire civilization is increasingly reliant on a fragile network of cell phone towers, which are the first things to fail in any crisis, e.g. a hurricane or other natural disaster… or else deliberate (e.g. EMP or hacker) sabotage.



Living Without ‘Her’

by Andy Miah

What makes love so important to us? Why is it so central to our lives? Why do we invest so much of ourselves into its discovery and feel so strongly that our happiness depends on it lasting?



The Maverick Nanny with a Dopamine Drip: Debunking Fallacies in the Theory of AI Motivation

by Richard Loosemore

My goal in this article is to demolish the AI Doomsday scenarios that are being heavily publicized by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, the Future of Humanity Institute, and others, and which have now found their way into the farthest corners of the popular press. These doomsday scenarios are logically incoherent at such a fundamental level that they can be dismissed as extremely implausible - they require the AI to be so unstable that it could never reach the level of intelligence at which it would become dangerous.  On a more constructive and optimistic note, I will argue that even if someone did try to build the kind of unstable AI system that might lead to one of the doomsday behaviors, the system itself would immediately detect the offending logical contradiction in its design, and spontaneously self-modify to make itself safe.



Why the Castles of Silicon Valley are Built out of Sand

by Rick Searle

If you get just old enough, one of the lessons living through history throws you is that dreams take a long time to die. Depending on how you date it, communism took anywhere from 74 to 143 years to pass into the dustbin of history, though some might say it is still kicking. The Ptolemaic model of the universe lasted from 100 AD into the 1600′s. Perhaps even more dreams than not simply refuse to die, they hang on like ghost, or ghouls, zombies or vampires, or whatever freakish version of the undead suits your fancy. Naming them would take up more room than I can post, and would no doubt start one too many arguments, all of our lists being different. Here, I just want to make an argument for the inclusion of one dream on our list of zombies knowing full well the dream I’ll declare dead will have its defenders.



IEET Audience Overwhelmingly Supportive of Turing Test

Two thirds of the 278 respondents to our poll on the Turning Test believe that “It is a strong indication of a mind like a human’s.”

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The Individual and the Collective, Part Two

by Valkyrie Ice McGill

Last post we observed the dynamics of the collective in the terms of a small tribe, and indicated that at this size, things worked pretty well. That is not to say that error modes were not possible, but that when error modes arose, there were mechanisms in place to deal with those errors. Essentially, at this scale, the ability of individuals to veil their actions in a wall of secrecy did not exist. While it is certainly possible for the individual to lie, cheat, steal and deceive, such actions could only be carried out to a limited extent, and carried repercussions that were deleterious to that individuals long term well being.



IEET Readers Divided on Robot Cars That Sacrifice Drivers’ Lives

Intrigued by IEET Fellow Patrick Lin’s essay “The Ethics of Autonomous Cars” we asked “Should your robot car sacrifice your life if it will save more lives?” A third of of the 196 of you who responded said no, a third said they should and a third said it should be the driver’s option.

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Is Net Neutrality Really a “Lose-Lose?” (Marc Andreessen says so)

by Jon Perry

Tyler Cowen points to this great Marc Andreessen interview in the Washington Post that features him saying the following about net neutrality: So, I think the net neutrality issue is very difficult. I think it’s a lose-lose. It’s a good idea in theory because it basically appeals to this very powerful idea of permissionless innovation. But at the same time, I think that a pure net neutrality view is difficult to sustain if you also want to have continued investment in broadband networks.



Brave Citizenship beats a Scorched Earth Policy

by David Brin

Most of us in the west were raised with legends, myths and movies that taught Suspicion of Authority (SoA).  Thanks to the great science fiction author, George Orwell, we share a compelling metaphor— Big Brother —propelling our fears about a future that may be dominated by tyrants.



The Kingdom of Machines

by Rick Searle

For anyone thinking about the future relationship between nature-man-machines I’d like to make the case for the inclusion of an insightful piece of fiction to the canon. All of us have heard of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. And many, though perhaps fewer, of us have likely heard of fiction authors from the other side of the nature/technology fence, writers like Mary Shelley, or Ursula Le Guin, or nowadays, Paolo Bacigalupi, but certainly almost none of us have heard of Samuel Butler, or better, read his most famous novel Erewhon (pronounced with 3 short syllables E-re-Whon.)



Kevin Lagrandeur’s Book on Androids Wins SFTS Honorable Mention

IEET Fellow Kevin Lagrandeur’s book Androids and Intelligent Networks in Early Modern Literature and Culture: Artificial Slaves has been awarded an Honorable Mention by the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies .

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Google Is Not Your Enemy. (But it’s not your friend either)

by Valkyrie Ice McGill

I am sure you have heard it constantly. "Google is (insert fear term here.)" They want to take over the internet, they are building skynet, they are invading our privacy, they are trying to become big brother, etc, etc, ad nausem.  Be it Glass, or their recent acquisition of numerous robotics firms, to even hiring Ray Kurzweil, Google has recently been in the news a lot, usually as the big bad boogieman of whatever news story you are reading.

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