Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) and I have both agreed and disagreed about transparency, for years. In his posting, Crime and Privacy, he has opined, for example, that “Ironically, the more the government clamps down on individual privacy, the more freedom the residents will have. When the government can detect every sort of crime, it will be forced by public opinion and by resource constraints to legalize anything it can detect but can’t stop.”
Anti-aging guru Aubrey de Grey's prediction that the first person to live 1,000-years has already been born got me thinking. What might life be like in this long-range future? Will boredom set in as we count the centuries; or will what promises to be an incredible technology-rich life keep the excitement alive?
One benefit to society that neural augmentation brings is an increase in the availability of education. Websites like Wikipedia and databases of scholarly articles already give anyone with access to the Internet access to vast amounts of information on virtually any topic. Excellent schools like MIT, through their OpenCourseWare program, offer free online classes in many subjects. If the human brain is augmented as Kurzweil suggests, this educational benefit will become even more pronounced. People will be able to upload information directly into their minds, and will be able to retain vastly more information than they can now.
Prosthetic devices have helped restore functionality in humans who suffer from diseases requiring amputation or from limbs lost in battle for over three thousand years. I will begin this paper by explaining some of that historical journey. Next, I will highlight a few of the prosthetic devices available today to demonstrate that much, but not all, of that functionality can now be restored. Then I will explain what the future of prosthetic devices might look like if they faithfully adhere to Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns.
Because of a close friend with mysterious yet serious medical problems, I’ve spent more time in hospitals over the last few months than my entire earlier life. This experience has heightened my suspicions of sanguine visions that present indefinite lifespans as within our reach. While I find these dreams as appealing as ever, I recommend transhumanists pay greater attention to social rather than technological methods for ameliorating physical frailty. Against the U.S. government’s obsessive focus on preventing spectacular violence via organized coercion, I offer freedom, equality, and community as ways to cope with vulnerability. As Wesley Strong argues, improving the human condition starts right now and doesn’t require nanotech genies.
On the internet and in the media there has been growing discussion of technological unemployment. People are increasingly concerned that automation will displace more and more workers—that in fact there might be no turning back at this point. We may be reaching the end of work as we know it.
Of course, no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, but by combining present day knowledge with anticipated advances, we can make plausible guesses about what life might be like in the 2040s. Over the coming decades, healthcare research will wield huge benefits for humankind. By 2040, stem cells, gene therapy, and 3-D bio printing promise to cure or make manageable most of today’s diseases. Regenerative medicine breakthroughs are appearing almost daily. Experts now predict that the rise in health discoveries will help us achieve our dreams of indefinite lifespan as we wind through the 2040s.
Artificial wombs are a staple of science fiction, but could we really build one? As time passes, we’re inching closer and closer to the day when it will finally become possible to grow a baby entirely outside the human body. Here’s what we’ll need to do to pull it off.
Knowing what kind of genes are involved in the main biological processes is much more relevant to your life than which car is faster, Porsche or Jaguar. And I’m not talking about dangerous driving here. I am talking about the crucial information about the genes that govern your longevity. You have to know what they are, what they do, what happens to them during aging and what are the ways to make them work better, towards keeping you young for a longer time. I am reprinting the text of the article written by Dr. Matthew Carter and Dr. Anne Brunet from Stanford University. I let myself explain some of the biological terms in brackets to make this beautifully written story of one gene a bit simpler. This is a must-read.
When we say “we” “one” or “I” in a context of “ought to think” we are referring to intellectuals in which we assume have a grasp on “rationality”. I assume that I am rational and that the material in which influenced me to write this paper on intellectualism and rationality was rational in itself. But not all “intellectual” media is rational.
Short term; displaced workers learn new skills. Long term; work-free future evolves. From assembly line robots to ATMs and self-checkout terminals, each year intelligent machines take over more jobs formerly held by humans; and experts predict this trend will not stop anytime soon. Even teachers, doctors, and government officials will one day be replaced by increasingly ‘smarter’ systems.
The freedom to die in peace has been much in the news of late. When an 83-year-old man shot first his dying wife and then himself in a Pennsylvania hospice, distressed commenters speculated that local law left him with no better options. The wife was bedridden, in a unit for people who have less than six months to live, and Pennsylvania has no Death with Dignity provisions like those in Washington and Oregon.
It has oft been observed that people are uneasy about the prospect of advanced enhancement technologies. But what is the cause of this unease? Is there any rational basis to it? I’m currently trying to work my way through a variety of arguments to this effect. At the moment, I’m looking at Saskia Nagel’s article “Too Much of Good Thing? Enhancement and the Burden of self determination”, which appeared a couple of years back in the journal Neuroethics.
In what might be the first documented case of technologically-assisted interspecies telepathy, an international team of researchers has successfully created a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface that allows humans to make a rat move involuntarily. The breakthrough could lead to more advanced techniques in which a person can control the parts of another person’s body with their thoughts.
Okay, it’s been awhile but at long last I’m going to finish off my series on Michael Hauskeller’s article “Human Enhancement and the Giftedness of Life”. To recap, in this article Hauskeller tries to refine, rehabilitate, and reconstruct Sandel’s giftedness argument against enhancement. I’m covering this as part of an ongoing series of posts looking at hyperagency-based objections to enhancement.
As I was reading over the comments of Dick Pelletier's recent article, he suggested that “although our brain and body will be considered non-biological, our consciousness will forever preserve our definition as a human being.” I have to agree with him here, which leads me to the concept of “mindspace” and a LessWrong article written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in 2008 suggesting it is impossible to understand what mind will be like.
Scientists want to learn how we become unique selves; and possibly even alter those selves. Investigators Misha Ahrens and Philipp Keller from HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus recently achieved imaging of a vertebrate brain at cellular resolution with speeds that approximate neural activity patterns and behavior – whole brain activities captured at the speed of the mind – 1.3 seconds.
Nearly 1.4 million babies are born surgically in the United States each year. That’s a third of all births, and the numbers are only getting bigger. The trend is due in part to an increase in elective cesarean sections, or surgical births that aren’t medically necessary. Why are women in the United States being encouraged to undergo unnecessary surgery?
The longstanding and growing concern over structural unemployment caused by automation highlights the absurdity of capitalism. Like homelessness caused by too many houses, poverty from mechanization looks perverse and nonsensical from a system-optimization standpoint. This article briefly sketches the history of both fears and hopes surrounding automated labor in order to argue against economic status quo of coercion, inequality, and inefficiency. I recommend distributing and/or socializing the twenty-first-century’s increasingly robotic means of production while simultaneously troubling sanguine post-scarcity dreams through attention to uncertainty, ecology, and pluralism.
Is there something disturbing about the drive for human enhancement? Is it unwise? Likely to reduce the quality and meaning of our lives? Likely to deprive us of something of great value? Several prominent philosophers argue that it is. Among them is Michael Sandel, who several years back argued that enhancement was unwise because it caused us to lose our appreciation for the giftedness of our lives. More precisely, he challenged proponents of enhancement on the grounds that its pursuit would give rise to a state of hyperagency, i.e. a state in which virtually every aspect of our lives is open to our control and manipulation.
A while back, I wrote a post about Michael Sandel’s case against human enhancement. As noted at the time, Sandel’s central claim was that enhancement was bad because it caused us to lose appreciation for the gifted nature of our lives. On the face of it, this doesn’t look to be a particularly persuasive argument, and indeed it has been repeatedly criticised in the literature since it was originally presented (see the earlier post for some examples of this). But maybe there is more to Sandel’s argument than meets the eye? Michael Hauskeller certainly seems to think so. In his 2011 article, “Human Enhancement and the Giftedness of Life”, he tries to rehabilitate, refine and reconstruct Sandel’s argument, defending it from common criticisms, and turning it into a powerful objection to the human enhancement project. Over the next few posts I want to take a fairly detailed look at Hauskeller’s attempted rehabilitation.
It might be said that some contemporary futurists tend to use technological innovation and scientific discovery in the same way God was said to use the whirlwind against defiant Job, or Donald Rumsfeld treated the poor citizens of Iraq a decade ago. It’s all about the “shock and awe”. One glance at something like KurzweilAI.Net leaves a reader with the impression that brand new discoveries are flying off the shelf by the nanosecond and that of all our deepest sci-fi dreams are about to come true. No similar effort is made, at least that I know of, to show all the scientific and technological paths that have led into cul-de-sac, or chart all the projects packed up and put away like our childhood chemistry sets to gather dust in the attic of the human might-have- been. In exact converse to the world of political news, in technological news it’s the jetpacks that do fly we read about not the ones that never get off the ground.
Straight from the pages of Existence… though sooner than I expected… researchers now claim to have the entire Neanderthal genome in published form, as clear as that of “any person on the street.” Okay, start your countdown till someone announces she is pregnant with… That will be a real boat-rocker…
...but there are other events on the near horizon that may be more important to saving our world.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve recently begun reading two books on the ethics of human enhancement. One of those books is called Humanity’s End and it’s by Nicholas Agar. Agar seems like an interesting character. In an earlier book he defended a liberal position on positive eugenics. This suggested he had a willingness to embrace certain forms of enhancement. And yet in this book he offers an argument against radical human enhancement. There’s not necessarily an incompatibility between the two positions, but it’s an interesting shift nonetheless.
Is immortality in our future? Positive futurists say it is. Infectious disease, accidents, starvation, and violence have kept average life expectancy at 20-to-30 years throughout most of human history. However, the quest to live longer and enjoy good health is one of the most ancient and deep-rooted hopes ingrained in our species.
Historians place the beginning of culture about 10,000 years ago, when our early ancestors abandoned hunter-gathering in favor of settling into communities, cultivating crops, and domesticating live stock.