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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Biosecurity



MULTIMEDIA: Biosecurity Topics

Is The Ebola Crisis (in the US) As Severe As The Media is Making It Out To Be?

Five Things Worth Knowing About Ebola

SETI Institute: Risky tales: Talking with Seth Shostak at Big Picture Science

Is the UN up to the job?

Winning the war on cancer?

When Do We Quarantine or Isolate for Ebola?

Does Space Travel Make You Stupid?

Peter Singer - Extinction Risk & Effective Altruism

Ebola: The 2014 Outbreak Explained

10 Future Energy Sources

Extreme Weather

CDC Confirms Patient In Dallas Has Ebola Virus

Beyond The People’s Climate March

Climate Engineering Conference 2014: Critical Global Discussions (6min)

The Writer’s Role: Reflections on Communicating Climate Engineering to Public Audiences




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Biosecurity Topics




12 Technologies We Need To Stop Stalling On And Develop Now

by George Dvorsky

The pace of technological change is governed by many factors — including public demand. Which is why we need to be demanding more. Here are 12 transformative technologies whose development should be expedited right now. To make this list meaningful, I only included those items that are within reasonable technological reach. Sure, it would be nice to have molecular assemblers, warp drives, and the recipe for safe artificial intelligence, but it’ll be decades before we can reasonably embark upon such projects.



Drug That Lost High-Stakes Political Fight For Funding Now Being Used Against Ebola

by Ryan Grim

WASHINGTON—An experimental drug now being used by the U.S. government to treat Ebola patients lost a high-stakes battle for federal funding several years ago. The politically connected drug company that won the dispute, meanwhile, filed for bankruptcy in September.



Planetary Boundaries And Global Catastrophic Risk

by Seth Baum

Back in 2012, I was invited to spend a few weeks visiting at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), a federally funded Japanese research institute based in the beautiful city of Kyoto. I was invited by my colleague Itsuki Handoh of RIHN. During my visit, Handoh and I came up with an idea for how to fuse two important lines of research on major global threats.



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.



Nano silver and ebola: Show us the data, or remove claims (FDA)

by Andrew Maynard

On September 23, the Food and Drug Administration sent Rima Laibow and Ralph Fucetola at the Natural Solutions Foundation a warning letter claiming that their allegedly nano (colloidal) silver based “Dr. Rima Recommends™ The Silver Solution” product violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDC Act).



Introduction to Astronaut Bioethics

by Patrick Lin

Reproducing in space, lifeboat problems, and other ethical quandaries that could arise if we travel to Mars. Disaster can happen at any moment in space exploration. “A good rule for rocket experimenters to follow is this: always assume that it will explode,” the editors of the journal Astronautics wrote in 1937, and nothing has changed: This August, SpaceX’s rocket blew up on a test flight.



Last Things: Cold Comfort in the Far Future

by Gregory Benford

Robert Frost’s famous imagery—fire or ice, take your pick—pretty much sums it up. But lately, largely unnoticed, a revolution has unwound in the thinking about such matters, in the hands of that most rarefied of tribes, the theoretical physicists. Maybe, just maybe, ice isn’t going to be the whole story. Of course, linking the human prospect to cosmology itself is not at all new. The endings of stories are important, because we believe that how things turn out implies what they ultimately mean. This comes from being pointed toward the future, as any ambitious species must be.



The Renewable Energy Revolution

by Ramez Naam

Transforming the world’s energy supply will take decades. It is a very tall order. But it’s starting. The price of renewables – and energy storage – continues to plunge, putting them on a path to being cheaper than any other form of energy within the coming decade. And they continue to grow exponentially – albeit it from a low baseline – spreading out into the market.



Interactively visualizing major health risks

by Andrew Maynard

Visualizing risk, NHS style It maybe because I hang out too much in the US these days, but I’ve only just come across this rather excellent  Atlas of Risk from the UK National Health Service…



The Obvious Relationship Between Climate and Family Planning—and Why We Don’t Talk About

by Valerie Tarico

Several years ago, Bill Gates keynoted a breakfast for Seattle-based Climate Solutions, a nonprofit focused on advancing the clean energy economy and driving practical, profitable solutions to climate change. Gates opened his speech with an equation. To paraphrase: Our carbon problem = persons x services x the energy intensity of services x the carbon intensity of energy. The number of people is growing, Gates observed, and we all want more services.



10 Horrifying Technologies That Should Never Be Allowed To Exist

by George Dvorsky

As we head deeper into the 21st century, we’re starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we’re also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence.



Why aren’t we more scared of measles?

by Andrew Maynard

Measles is one of the leading causes of death amongst children worldwide.  In 2012, an estimated 122,000 people died of the disease according to the World Health Organization – equivalent to 14 deaths every hour.  Yet talk to parents about this highly infectious disease, and the response is often a resounding “meh”.  Why is this?



An open source future for synthetic biology

by Harry J. Bentham

If the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tells us something indisputable, it is this: GMO food products from corporations like Monsanto are suspected to endanger health. On the other hand, an individual’s right to genetically modify and even synthesize entire organisms as part of his dietary or medical regimen could someday be a human right.



IEET Fellow Susan Schneider Interviewed in the cover story for The Humanist (Sept/Oct)

Can consciousness be created in a machine? Is the mind/brain simply a computational system? IEET Fellow and University of Connecticut philosopphy professor, Susan Schneider, was interviewed by The Humanist on these pressing topics. What kind of technology will exist in a transhumanist world the humanists are starting to question…

Full Story...
Link to The Humanist



Fumed silica: Another nano material we need to worry about?

by Andrew Maynard

Pick up a jar of chili powder, and the chances are it will contain a small amount of fumed silica – an engineered nanomaterial that’s been around for over half a century.  The material – which is formed from microscopically small particles of amorphous silicon dioxide – has long been considered to be non-toxic.



While the world watches Ebola, Meningitis continues to kill in West Africa

by Andrew Maynard

“This year alone, there have been 17,000 cases of meningitis in Nigeria, with nearly 1,000 deaths”. It’s a statement that jumped out at me watching a video from this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival by my former University of Michigan Public Health student Utibe Effiong.



Talking About Extinction In Front of Dinosaurs

by Jamais Cascio

I'm back from the first Climate Engineering Conference, held in Berlin. Quite a good trip, but in many ways the highlight was the talk I gave at the Berlin Natural History Museum. The gathering took place in the dinosaur room, which holds (among other treasures) the "Berlin Specimen" Archaeopteryx fossil, among the most famous and most important fossils ever discovered.



Are we morally obliged to eat some meat? (Part 1 and 2)

by John Danaher

I’ve recently been looking into the ethics of vegetarianism, partly because I’m not one myself and I’m interesting in questioning my position, and partly because it is an interesting philosophical issue in its own right. Earlier this summer I looked at Jeff McMahan’s critique of benign carnivorism. Since that piece was critical of the view I myself hold, I thought it might be worthwhile balancing things out by looking at an opposing view.



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.



Is using nano silver to treat Ebola misguided?

by Andrew Maynard

On Thursday this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ebola victims in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos will receive Nano Silver in an attempt to treat the infection.  The news comes hot on the heels of the World Health Organization’s decision to sanction the use of unlicensed Ebola drugs in West Africa on ethical grounds.  It also coincides with a US Food and Drug Administration statement released yesterday warning against fraudulent Ebola treatment products.



Let’s Bet on Money?

by Maria Konovalenko

Let’s make a bet? I will propose something incredibly effective in the area of life extension and no one will be able to suggest a better strategy. Deal?



Paternalism, Procedure, Precedent: The Ethics of Using Unproven Therapies in an Ebola Outbreak

by Kelly Hills

The WHO medical ethics panel convened Monday to discuss the ethics of using experimental treatments for Ebola in West African nations affected by the disease. I am relieved to note that this morning they released their unanimous recommendation: “it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”



An Ethical Framework for the Use of Enhancement Drugs

by John Danaher

Debate about the merits of enhancement tends to pretty binary. There are some — generally called bioconservatives — who are opposed to it; and others — transhumanists, libertarians and the like — who embrace it wholeheartedly. Is there any hope for an intermediate approach? One that doesn’t fall into the extremes of reactionary reject or uncritical endorsement?



CBS Gives Pilot Production Commitment to Drama Based on Bioethicist Arthur L. Caplan

CBS has given a pilot production commitment to “Austen’s Razor,” a drama from Legendary Television and CBS Television Studios that’s inspired by the career of bioethics expert Arthur L. Caplan.

Full Story...
Link to CBS



Ebola, Paternalism, and the Need for WHO’s Medical Ethics Review of Experimental Treatments

by Kelly Hills

The World Health Organization has released a statement (in full, bottom of blog post) that they are going to convene, early next week, a panel of medical ethicists to “explore the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” The statement goes on to say that “the recent treatment of two health workers from Samaritan’s Purse with experimental medicine has raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested and shown to be safe in people should be used in the outbreak.”



The First Machine War and the Lessons of Mortality

by Rick Searle

I just finished a thrilling little book about the first machine war. The author writes of a war set off by a terrorist attack where the very speed of machines being put into action,and the near light speed of telecommunications whipping up public opinion to do something now, drives countries into a world war. In his vision whole new theaters of war, amounting to fourth and fifth dimensions, have been invented. Amid a storm of steel huge hulking machines roam across the landscape and literally shred human beings in their path to pieces. Low flying avions fill the sky taking out individual targets or help calibrate precision attacks from incredible distances beyond. Wireless communications connect soldiers and machine together in a kind of world-net…



Where the Wild Things Are–Family Planning Conversations on Teen Turf

by Valerie Tarico

No one birth control method fits everyone, but today young women have better options than ever before. Across the United States, from New York to South Carolina to Texas to Oregon, health advocates and providers are scrambling to get the word out about long-acting yet easily reversible contraceptive methods that are now approved for use by teenagers and well liked by most who use them. (See this earlier Sightline series, Twenty Times Better Than the Pill.)



Gaza Is a Transhumanist Issue!

by Benjamin Abbott

Transhumanists as a rule may prefer to contemplate implants and genetic engineering, but few if any violations of morphological freedom exceed being torn to pieces by shrapnel or dashed against concrete by an overpressure wave. In this piece I argue that the settler-colonial violence in occupied Palestine relates to core aspects of modernity and demands futurist attention both emotionally and intellectually.



Bostrom on Superintelligence (1): The Orthogonality Thesis

by John Danaher

In this entry, I take a look at Bostrom’s orthogonality thesis. As we shall see, this thesis is central to his claim that superintelligent AIs could pose profound existential risks to human beings. But what does the thesis mean and how plausible is it?



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.

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