As the measles outbreak grows, 173 cases since March 6th, most cases have been traced from the unvaccinated child in Disneyland, with additional outlier cases and it has become our latest national fascination with a bioethics issue.
When Reuters announced the successful deployment of the first Internet-enabled pacemaker in the United States, it was a dream come true for many. The news came late in the summer of 2009, three weeks after Carol Kasyjanski became the first American recipient of a wireless pacemaker that allowed her doctor to monitor her health from afar. Since then there has been a proliferation of Internet-connected personal medical devices, or iPMDs, which now include insulin pumps, glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, walking canes, and of course, the ubiquitous fitness wearables.
Recently a group of scientists and an industry group have issued statements calling for a moratorium on human heritable or germline genetic modifications (see here, here and here), now that we have the powerful CRISPR technique to pursue them. These statements have been greeted rapturously by bioconservatives, who want to see a global ban on germline and enhancement genetic therapies. Of course, transhumanists have been thinking about these things for a long time, and the World Transhumanist Association (now known as Humanity+) adopted a formal position on human germline genetic modification ten years ago.
A National Academy of Sciences panel said that, with proper governance and other safeguards, we should commence more research on geoengineering — technologies that might let himanity deliberately intervene in nature to counter climate change. With the planet facing potentially severe impacts from global warming in coming decades, drastically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was by far the best way to mitigate the effects of a warming planet. But society would be foolish not to at least carefully commence small scale experiments looking into other means of reducing the net harm.
Unwanted pregnancy is contributing to a new “caste system” in America. Is that about to get worse? When new and better technologies become available only to people who are already privileged, the rich get richer and opportunity gaps get wider. That’s exactly what’s happening with family planning—and unless trends change, a recent revolution in contraceptive technology may deepen America’s economic divide. Many factors intersect to create poverty or keep people mired there: racism, sexism, untreated illness and mental illness, hopelessness created by lack of opportunity, structural barriers between social classes, and more.
In response to pressure from the advocacy group As You Sow, Dunkin’ Brands has announced that it will be removing allegedly “nano” titanium dioxide from Dunkin’ Donuts’ powdered sugar donuts. As You Sow claims there are safety concerns around the use of the material, while Dunkin’ Brands cites concerns over investor confidence. It’s a move that further confirms the food sector’s conservatism over adopting new technologies in the face of public uncertainty. But how justified is it based on what we know about the safety of nanoparticles?
Every time a region of the United States enters a short- or long-term drought, out come the histrionics. “The sky is falling.” But crying “wolf” is not a remedy. Careful planning by considering existing and future technological advances is one obvious solution.
Transpolitica holds that human society should embrace, wisely, thoughtfully, and compassionately, the radical transformational potential of technology. The speed and direction of technological adoption can be strongly influenced by social and psychological factors, by legislation, by subsidies, and by the provision or restriction of public funding. Political action can impact all these factors, either for better or for worse.
Position Paper: The Critical Need to Promote Research of Aging Below is the position paper on the Critical Need to Promote Research of Aging of the International Society on Aging and Disease (ISOAD). This paper briefly details the rationales, the technologies and the policies that are needed to promote this research. Thus it can serve as a generally applicable advocacy or lobbying paper in different countries. Please help spread it. Please contribute to the widest possible recognition and support of biological research of aging and aging-related diseases. We welcome the readers to circulate this position paper, share it in your social networks, forward it to politicians, potential donors and media, organize discussion groups to debate the topics raised (that may later grow into grassroots longevity research and activism groups in different countries), translate this position paper into your language, reference and link to it, even republish it in part or in full (for example, the policy recommendations can fit on a single page flyer), join the ISOAD or other aging and longevity research and advocacy organizations.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
The fact that this even needs to be said demonstrates that there’s been a breakdown in the democratic process, but we’ll say it anyway: Our number one priority should be protecting the planet for future generations. That said, green energy makes sense even if we base our thinking on economic considerations alone.
The recent study in the journal Science, which suggested that most cancers are due to bad luck rather than lifestyle or environmental factors, generated massive media ripples. To summarize, authors Tomasetti and Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University say the “majority [of cancers] are due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells”.
When I first learnt of the idea to genetically modify mosquitoes (GMMs) as a strategy for controlling the diseases transmitted by these much-maligned insects, I thought it was refreshingly innovative. Little did I know that scientists had been fiddling with mosquitoes, and other insects, for the same reason long before I was born.
Looked at in the longer historical perspective we have already achieved something our ancestors would consider superlongevity. In the UK life expectancy at birth averaged around 37 in 1700. It is roughly 81 today. The extent to which this is a reflection of decreased child mortality versus an increase in the survival rate of the elderly I’ll get to a little later, but for now, just try to get your head around the fact that we have managed to nearly double the life expectancy of human beings in a little over two centuries.
The chances are that, if you follow news articles about cancer, you’ll have come across headlines like “Most Cancers Caused By Bad Luck” (The Daily Beast) or “Two-thirds of cancers are due to “bad luck,” study finds” (CBS News). The story – based on research out of Johns Hopkins University – has grabbed widespread media attention. But it’s also raised the ire of science communicators who think that the headlines and stories are, in the words of a couple of writers, “just bollocks”.
By mid-century or before, many future followers predict the pace of technological progress in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution. By the 2030s, we'll be deluged with medical breakthroughs that promise a forever youthful state of being.
Positive future watchers believe we will see more progress in the next three decades than was experienced over the last 200 years. In The Singularity is Near, author Ray Kurzweil reveals how science will change the ways we live, work, and play. The following timeline looks at some amazing possibilities as we venture ahead in what promises to become an incredible future…
Looking back on my early experience as a young engineer, I am reminded how little my colleagues and I appreciated that what we did would change the world, for good and for bad. I am also reminded how Marcel Golay, one of my early mentors understood the duality of technology and how this feature plays large in its application for the right purpose.
In Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision for Our Future Evolution, IEET affiliate scholar Ted Chu, a professor of Economics at New York University in Abu Dhabi and former chief economist for General Motors and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, argues that post-humanity is a logical and necessary evolutionary next step for humanity, and we need a new, heroic cosmic faith for the post-human era. “The ultimate meaning of our lives rests not in our personal happiness but in our contribution to cosmic evolution,” says Chu…
We asked “Should DIY biohackers be subject to the same safety regulations and oversight as corporate biological research labs?” Of the 573 of you that responded six out of ten (61%) believed that biohackers should be subject to some kind of regulation.
I argued in my 2013 book, The Infinite Resource, that the “seeds shouldn’t be patented” argument against GMOs and specifically against Monsanto was invalid for a very specific reason: Patents end. As I wrote then, the patents for Monsanto’s first commercial genetically modified crop, Roundup Ready Soy I, would expire at the end of the 2014 growing season. After that, farmers would be free to save seeds to replant, universities would be free to tinker with the genetic trait, seed breeders would be free to cross-breed it into other strains, and so on.
If predictions by future thinkers such as Aubrey de Grey, Robert Freitas, and Ray Kurzweil ring true – that future science will one day eliminate the disease of aging – then it makes sense to consider the repercussions a non-aging society might place on our world.
Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years. It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be harmful at low doses. Yet a recent study suggests that the label may mislead consumers into thinking that “free” means “safer” — even when there’s a chance that the substances used to substitute for BPA may also be harmful. The study is one of the first to explore how consumer responses to uncertainty and ambiguity in risk information may lead to “regrettable substitutions” — the replacement of one material with another that is potentially less safe.
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.