A Korean woman was on the verge of divorce because her husband no longer found her attractive and was having an affair. Nothing worked in her efforts to save the marriage and as a last resort she underwent cosmetic surgery. The result was so dramatic and her son didn’t recognize her when she returned home.
So I finally got around to reading Max Tegmark’s book Our Mathematical Universe, and while the book answered the question that had led me to read it, namely, how one might reconcile Plato’s idea of eternal mathematical forms with the concept of multiple universes, it also threw up a whole host of new questions. This beautifully written and thought provoking book made me wonder about the future of science and the scientific method, the limits to human knowledge, and the scientific, philosophical and moral meaning of various ideas of the multiverse.
Over the past few weeks, revelations of potentially dangerous errors in US federal labs handling pathogens have placed health and safety high on the national agenda. In June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced as many as 75 of its staff may have been exposed to anthrax due to safety issues at one of its labs. At the beginning of July, vials of smallpox virus were found in an unsecured room at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Then earlier this week came the revelation that in the same room were over 300 vials containing pathogens such as dengue virus, influenza, and the bacterium that causes Q fever.
This is a statue of Dick Winters from the Allied 101 airborne and Easy Company of World War II. He didn’t let us down with the war against the Nazis, battling through Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Germany to get to them and capture and shoot them so they would stop threatening all of our freedoms. I’m very sorry and eternally saddened that the world couldn’t get to the goal of indefinite life extension therapy available for all, in time for more people like Dick.
Jim Thomas of the ETC Group has just posted a well reasoned article on the Guardian website on the challenges of defining the the emerging technology of “synthetic biology”. The article is the latest in a series of exchanges addressing the potential risks of the technology and its effective regulation.
Over the past few days, my news and social media streams have been inundated by articles on “nanojuice”. The “juice” – developed by researchers at the University of Buffalo and published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology – is a suspension of light-absorbing nanoparticles which, when drunk (and only mice have had this privilege so far), allow an unprecedented level of real-time imaging of the small intestine. It also presents an unusual series of safety challenges as the particles are designed to be intentionally ingested.
Geoengineering has come under attack recently by conspiracy theorists, scientists, to “greens.” There have been many kinds of proposals for geoengineering, and even a legal/illegal experiment pouring 200,000 pounds of iron sulfate into the North Pacific which was supposed to increase plankton that would absorb carbon dioxide. The experiment did not work and pissed off a lot of scientists. China also recently stopped their “flattening of mountains.” Therefore this article is not purely about techniques of combating global warming, but about the need for people to understand that geoengineering is a must, not only a must, but also a “human right.”
Over the spring the Fundamental Questions Institute (FQXi) sponsored an essay contest the topic of which should be dear to this audience’s heart- How Should Humanity Steer the Future? I thought I’d share some of the essays I found most interesting, but there are lots, lots, more to check out if you’re into thinking about the future or physics, which I am guessing you might be.
In my last article on transhumanism and qualia we looked at the definition of qualia and biological experiments that suggest qualia are nothing more then a physical outcome of a complex system, (for now the brain). But what if qualia is not physical in nature in the same way we think of the typical physicalist notion of an atom? What if qualia was not purely biologically evolved, instead was/is part of the universe like the “strings” in M-theory and String Theory, or the basic hydrogen atom? I will argue in defense of quaila and suggest that logical operators can be “felt” by the current human mind.
What does it mean to be a person? For the anti-abortion group, Personhood USA, a “person” is present from the moment a sperm penetrates an egg, and members are fighting to have their definition encoded into law. Online coaching tools for abortion opponents use the term person interchangeably with human or human being. Are they interchangeable? Does it matter?
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.
This is the second part in my series on the ethics of benign carnivorism. The series is working off Jeff McMahan’s article “Eating animals the nice way”. Benign carnivorism (BC) is the view that it is ethically permissible to eat farmed meat, so long as the animals being reared have lived good lives (that they otherwise would not have lived) and have been killed painlessly.
Although a study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs could be at risk of computerization over the next two decades, this does not necessarily need to be bad news, says futurist Thomas Frey in a recent Futurist Magazine essay.
Is it morally permissible to eat farmed meat? According to a position known as “benevolent carnivorism” it can be. I’ll offer a more detailed characterisation of this position below, but in general terms benevolent carnivorism (BC from here on out) is the view that it is permissible to eat farmed meat so long as the animals one eats live good lives (that they would not otherwise have lived) and are painlessly killed.
Over the past few weeks, a question we have faced before as a species reared its head once again: Should we destroy the last known samples of smallpox on Earth? The answer might seem obvious, may not even seem to require a second thought: Of course we eradicate smallpox! What good is it? One question I would ask in response is: What kind of species do we want to be?
The digital age version of the proverbial tree falling in the woods question is: Does something exist if it hasn’t been liked, favorited, linked to, or re-tweeted? According to many tech critics, the tragic answer is no. Like Lady Gaga, we live for the applause. But if constantly chasing other people’s approval is a shallow way to live that leads to time and energy being wasted over pleasing others and recurring feelings of insecurity and emptiness, how can we course correct?
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…
Recently, I was at Peet’s Coffee writing an article on my laptop. A tired father walked into the shop with his adult son, a portly-looking 20-year-old weighing over 200 pounds. The son had Down syndrome, and his mental state was so confused that the father had to walk closely behind him, holding both of his shoulders to guide him. The son moaned as he walked, jerking forward in sharp, uncoordinated movements. Saliva bubbled out of his mouth.
The IEET is committed to a position of non-anthropocentric personhood ethics, which values animals with personhood, such as apes, whales and dolphins, more than merely sentient creatures and nature in general. But this position is morally inconsistent and politically inadequate to the challenge of fighting back against ecological destruction. In contrast I offer a defence of the position of biosperic egalitarianism as the most consistent and politically effective stance in fighting for the interests of other species.
Whether you consider yourself a futurist, a technoprogressive, a Transhumanist, we all recognize the ongoing neglect by mainstream media, Hollywood, and other prominent media institutions in regards to a growing realization – the concepts of both work and death are changing before our very eyes! From technological unemployment now starting to affect workers in the industrial nations, to the international scientific community becoming more involved in anti-aging research, it’s quite clear that our near future may see the destruction of what we consider “working” and “dying.”
More than 200 participants from North America, Europe and Asia met in post-Olympic Sochi for five days this April, as world-famous anti-aging researchers exchanged ideas at the third International Conference on Genetics of Aging and Longevity. They discussed progress and remaining obstacles, in their efforts to deepen our understanding of this complex phenomenon and develop strategies for interventions.
The Cryonics Society of Canada was created by Douglas Quinn in 1987. Two years prior, he became the first contracted Canadian cryonicist, and went on to be the president of the CSC (Cryonics Society of Canada), and editor of the Canadian Cryonics News . One of the early ideas in cryonics circles which he advocated for was the concept of permafrost burial  as a low cost alternative to standard cryopreservation by using areas of northern Canada where the ground never thaws at a certain depth.
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 .
Anti-aging activist Aubrey de Grey has identified medical advances that will eliminate much of the wear and tear our bodies suffer as we grow old. Those who undergo continuous repair treatments, de Grey said in this YouTube interview, could remain healthy for millennia without fears of dying from old age.
One of the projects I worked on for the Institute for the Future's 2014 Ten-Year Forecast was Magna Cortica, a proposal to create an overarching set of ethical guidelines and design principles to shape the ways in which we develop and deploy the technologies of brain enhancement over the coming years. The forecast seemed to strike a nerve for many people—a combination of the topic and the surprisingly evocative name, I suspect. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic Monthly wrote a very good piece on the Ten-Year Forecast, focusing on Magna Cortica, and Popular Sciencesubsequently picked up on the story. I thought I'd expand a bit on the idea here, pulling in some of the material I used for the TYF talk.
A recent massive leap forward in synthetic life, recently published in Nature, is the expansion of the alphabet of DNA to six letters rather than four, by synthetic biologists – the technicians to whom we entrust the great task of reprogramming life itself.
When we start talking about ending war, one common reaction—not as common as “You’re a lunatic,” but fairly common—is to propose that if we want to get rid of war we’ll have to get rid of something else first, or sometimes it’s a series of something elses.