Futurist Sara Robinson has called modern contraception the most disruptive technology of the last hundred years. From the time our ancestors first walked out of the Great Rift Valley—perhaps even before—culture, religion, and division of labor enshrined the simple, universal fact that women had little control over their fertility.
That’s like asking: Which of your children do you like best? Glory Season is my brave, indomitable daughter. The Postman is my courageous, civilization-saving son. Earth is the child who combined science and nature to become a planet. The Uplift War…well, I never had a better character than Fiben the earthy-intellectual chimp!
Democratic Legitimacy and the Enhancement Project Klaming and Vedder (2010) have argued that enhancement technologies that improve the epistemic efficiency of the legal system (“epistemic enhancements”) would benefit the common good. But there are two flaws to Klaming and Vedder’s argument. First, they rely on an under-theorised and under-specified conception of the common good. When theory and specification are supplied, their CGJ for enhancing eyewitness memory and recall becomes significantly less persuasive. And second, although aware of such problems, they fail to give due weight and consideration to the tensions between the individual and common good.
It’s not quite Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but it may not be too far off, either. By grafting human glial cells into the brains of mice, neuroscientists were able to “sharply enhance” their cognitive capacities. These improvements included augmentations to memory, learning, and adaptive conditioning. It’s a breakthrough that could yield important insights into the treatment of human brain disorders.
Although the quantified self movement has been getting a lot of attention within technoprogressive and transhumanist communities, appealing to the self-engineering mindset, not many IEET community members have started quantifying themselves. Two thirds either measure nothing about themselves, or only watch their weight. Only one in eight are using mobile health devices or apps to record facts about their bodies or minds.
A couple of weeks back, I looked at David Owens’s article “Disenchantment”. In this article, Owens argues that the ability to manipulate and control all aspects of human life — which is, arguably, what is promised to us by enhancement technologies — would lead to disenchantment. Those of you who read my analysis of Owens’s article will know that I wasn’t too impressed by his arguments. Since then I’ve been wondering whether there might be a better critique of enhancement, one which touches upon similar themes, but which is defended by more rigorous arguments.
“What the mind doesn’t understand, it worships or fears.” – Alice Walker Walker’s words ring profoundly true for me, at the moment. In my sci-fi course (which is actually all about science fiction becoming real-world, bleeding-edge science; personhood; and the technological Singularity; but sci-fi is better shorthand) we’ve just covered a number of approaches to concepts such as mind uploading and immortality.
Transhumanism is often misunderstood and maligned by who are ignorant of it – or those who were exposed solely to detractors such as John Gray, Leon Kass, and Taleb himself. This essay will serve to correct these misconceptions in a concise fashion. Those who still wish to criticize transhumanism should at least understand what they are criticizing and present arguments against the real ideas, rather than straw men constructed by the opponents of radical technological progress.
Science and technology have utterly transformed humanity during my lifetime. Where forecasts of the future used to be measured in decades, today, new medical discoveries are announced almost weekly. This article focuses on cutting-edge research that promises a healthier and longer lifespan for all of us.
Suicide Girls and the IEET Team up to Tackle Feminism, Erotica, Science, and the Future of Technology: An Interview with Voodou Suicide. We discuss everything from sex robots to the future of nanotechnology. It was a pleasure interviewing her, and I think you will enjoy the questions and answers and learn something at the same time!
In my last article, I used a cartoon model of intelligence to examine different aspects of whatever that thing is we call critical thinking. The usefulness of the schematic goes well beyond that exercise, however. Specifically, there's the fascinating idea of a "unit of usefulness" often called an interface. It's worthwhile examining how it works in the context of education.
Emerging technologies like bioengineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and geoengineering have great promise for humanity, but they also come with great peril. They could revolutionize everything from pollution control to human health—imagine a bioengineered microbe that converts CO2 into automobile-worthy liquid fuels, or nanotechnologies that target cancer cells.
But they also pose the potential to cause a global catastrophe in which millions or even billions of people die.
I just came across a 2007 article by Daniel T. Willingham “Critical Thinking: Why is it so hard to teach?” Critical thinking is very commonly found in lists of learning outcomes for general education or even at the institution level. In practice, it’s very difficult to even define, let alone teach or assess. The article is a nice survey of the problem.
Our brain is the source of everything that makes us human: language, creativity, rationality, emotion, communication, culture, and politics. Now, researchers are set to repair brain functions, to create mind-machine interfaces, and enhance human mental capacities in radical ways.
This is the second part in a brief series looking at whether human enhancement — understood as the use of scientific knowledge and technology to improve the human condition — would rob our lives of meaning and value. The focus is on David Owens’s article “Disenchantment”. The goal is to clarify the arguments presented by Owens, and to subject them to some critical scrutiny.
The rise in reported cases of people being born with conditions on the Autism Spectrum indicate a possible evolutionary trait: a mutation that enhances the ability of the most powerful tool the human animal has – its mind. Instead of working toward a cure for ASD, we should be harnessing the collective power of these genius minds to fundamentally change our society. We need to evolve or die.
Most science fictional and futurist visions of the future tend towards the negative — and for good reason. Our environment is a mess, we have a nasty tendency to misuse technologies, and we’re becoming increasingly capable of destroying ourselves. But civilizational demise is by no means guaranteed. Should we find a way to manage the risks and avoid dystopic outcomes, our far future looks astonishingly bright. Here are seven best-case scenarios for the future of humanity.
Our ancestors struggled to get enough calories just to stay alive. But as food supplies have become reliable and rich, people around the world face the opposite problem. Now, as we try to keep our weight in a healthy range, we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, prayer, or even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.
My brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, each connecting to other nerve cells through synapses. These interactions process signals entering the nervous system, and then produce output responses that stimulate my bodily functions, everything from thinking to walking to kissing.
In a number of developing countries, the relationship between increased resource allocation to the education sector and improved education outcomes is fairly weak. A major finding is that “traditional” education inputs fail to yield the expected positive influence.
The idea of artificial slaves - and questions about their tractability - is present not only in the literature of modern times but also extends all the way back to ancient Greek sources; and it is present in the literature and oral history of the early modern period as well. Aristotle is the first to discuss the uses and advantages of the artificial slave in his Politics.
New Google hire and renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil sums up how technologies might play out over the next two decades with this claim: “If you remain in good health for 20 more years, you may never die.”
Positive futurists believe that as thought talking technologies become reality, which some believe could happen during the 2030s and 2040s; our diverse world could evolve into a peaceful global community eliminating most of the ethnic and religious barriers that plague society today.
If you could design your own body, give it any shape, size, color, contour, texture and elegant design, what would you choose? What if your body could regenerate healthier, fresher skin and worn out tendons, ligaments and joints with replaceable ones? What if your body was as sleek, as sexy, and feel as comfortable as your new automobile? These are just a few of the questions to consider in the decades ahead. Sit back, take a deep, relaxing breath, follow the Primo Guides, and come along for an aerodynamic ride. Welcome to the future! ’ (Natasha Vita-More) 1
’… in a couple of years, everyone will consider the possession of a soft, hairy, sweating body to be shameful and indcecent. In a prostheticized society, you can snap on the loveliest creations of modern engineering.’ (Stanislaw Lem The Futurological Congress: Vision of 2039) 2
Though pain has clearly served an important evolutionary purpose, not everyone is convinced that we still need it. A growing number of forward-looking thinkers are suggesting that we need to get rid of it — and that we’ll soon have the technological know-how to do this. But should we choose to embark on such a radical experiment, we’ll need to pay close attention to the risks and those aspects of humanity we might risk losing.
What if you could read my mind? What if I could beam what I’m seeing, hearing, and thinking, straight to you, and vice versa? What if an implant could store your memories, augment them, and make you smarter?