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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Bioculture

Sorgner on “Meta-, post- and transhumanism and the arts”
February 17-21
Hamburg, Germany


The Work of Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction
March 20-21
Flint, MI, USA


Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction
March 20-21
Flint, Michigan, USA


Confronting the Anthropocene
June 27
Boston, MA USA


Hughes, Sorgner @ Beyond Humanism Conf: From Humanism to Post- and Transhumanism?
September 15-18
Seoul, S. Korea




MULTIMEDIA: Bioculture Topics

Humanities and the Science of Learning: Revealing the essence of human thought (1hr)

Analogy, Causality, and Discovery in Science: The engines of human thought (1hr 20min)

Insights from The Science of Learning & Educational Neuroscience (1hr 10min)

Brain/Mind Discoveries and Mysteries

Panel Discussion on Brain, Mind, Neuroscience, and Computer Science (1hr 20min)

Dreaming as Virtual Reality (1hr)

The Healthspan Imperative

Compressing Time with Brain To Computer Interfaces

Converging Technologies: Computers, Psychology and Neurology

Bringing biotechnology into the home

Sustainable Systems SFA 2.0 (Computer Simulation from the Genome to the Environment)

Prototype

Smart Cities, Smart Sports

“Demystifying visionary technology” (1hr)

“What is a fair distribution of brains?” (1hr)




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Bioculture Topics




Longer Lives and the Alleged Tedium of Immortality

by John Danaher

Back in 1973, Bernard Williams published an article about the desirability of immortality. The article was entitled “The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality”. The article used the story of Elina Makropulos — from Janacek’s opera The Makropulos Affair — to argue that immortality would not be desirable. According to the story, Elina Makropulos is given the elixir of life by her father. The elixir allows Elina to live for three hundred years at her current biological age. After this period has elapsed, she has to choose whether to take the elixir again and live for another three hundred. She takes it once, lives her three hundred years, and then chooses to die rather than live another three hundred. Why? Because she has become bored with her existence.



Who Aborts the Most Fertilized Eggs? Families Like the Duggars

by Valerie Tarico

A woman who values fertilized eggs or who believes her deity does should use the most highly effective contraceptive available. Most fertilized eggs spontaneously abort during the first weeks of life. Estimates of death before implantation range as high as 80 percent and bottom out around 45.



Enhancement and authenticity: Is it all about being true to our selves?

by John Danaher

I’ve met Erik Parens twice; he seems like a thoroughly nice fellow. I say this because I’ve just been reading his latest book Shaping Our Selves: On Technology, Flourishing and a Habit of Thinking, and it is noticeable how much of his personality shines through in the book. Indeed, the book opens with a revealing memoir of Parens’s personal life and experiences in bioethics, specifically in the enhancement debate. What’s more, Parens’s frustrations with the limiting and binary nature of much philosophical debate is apparent throughout his book.



Bioethicist: Why Connecticut Teen Can’t Say No to Chemo

by Arthur Caplan

A 17-year-old girl, listed in court papers only as Cassandra C., is in protective custody at a Connecticut hospital where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy treatment that she says she does not want. Americans strongly value the right to refuse medical care.



#6: Living for 1,000 years: an ‘out of this world’ future awaits us

by Dick Pelletier

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?



#8: Future of love and sex: monogamy no longer the default, say experts

by Dick Pelletier

There’s a pervasive notion that monogamous relationships are the end-all-be-all – the default pact in human couplings that keep the fabric of society from being torn apart. But growing numbers of scientists believe monogamy is not our biological default; and may not even represent the best road to happiness.



#13: When Does Hindering Life Extension Science Become a Crime?

by Zoltan Istvan

Every human being has both a minimum and a maximum amount of life hours left to live. If you add together the possible maximum life hours of every living person on the planet, you arrive at a special number: the optimum amount of time for our species to evolve, find happiness, and become the most that it can be. Many reasonable people feel we should attempt to achieve this maximum number of life hours for humankind. After all, very few people actually wish to prematurely die or wish for their fellow humans’ premature deaths.



An Interview with David Alvarado from ‘The Immortalists’

by Alex Nichols

The Immortalists is a film following the lives of two scientists, Aubrey De Grey and Bill Andrews, on their scientific quest to end aging. With the visionary goals set out by the two scientists, they are accompanied by directors Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado who masterfully unveil layers of sensitive philosophical issues surrounding death, existentialism, and our global focuses as a species. The film is a must see for those inclined to explore how these themes tie into aging. Below is an interview with David that covers some film specific questions, with an emphasis on the broader scope of some Transhumanist aims.



#14: It’s Time for Religion to Get Out of the Healthcare Business

by Valerie Tarico

When you have to make hard medical decisions, who do you want in the room? Religious belief is on the decline in the U.S., and medical knowledge is on the increase. This makes it particularly ironic that so much of our health care system is accountable at the highest levels not to science or patient preference but to the dictators of faith and of theology. Metaphorically, more and more medical decisions get made with the Catholic Bishops in the room, regardless of whether the patient wants them there. Not only that, but the Bishops have a religious veto that can trump both doctor and patient.



#15: 2020s Biotech: better health, say goodbye to most age-related deaths

by Dick Pelletier

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.



#17: Mid-century Earth: a brief glance at our future in 36 years

by Dick Pelletier

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…



#18: The Future of Work and Death

by B. J. Murphy

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.”



Stopping the innocent from pleading guilty: Can brain-based recognition detection tests help?

by John Danaher

So I have another paper coming out. It’s about plea-bargaining, brain-based lie detection and the innocence problem. I wasn’t going to write about it on the blog, but then somebody sent me a link to a recent article by Jed Radoff entitled “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty”. Radoff’s article is an indictment of the plea-bargaining system currently in operation in the US. Since my article touches upon same thing, I thought it might be worth offering a summary of its core argument.



#20: Shape-shifting claytronics: wild future here by 2020, experts say

by Dick Pelletier

Imagine a bracelet or watch that changes into something else when you take it off. Perhaps it becomes a cell phone, tablet, or computer. Although this scenario may seem like science fiction, this and much more will soon become reality with a ground-breaking new technology known as claytronics.



Superintelligences Are Already Out There!

by John G. Messerly

“I think it very likely—in fact, inevitable—that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon… If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is very likely to be postbiological in nature …” Paul Davies



Self Absorption

by Joseph R. Carvalko

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.



Meaning, Value and the Collective Afterlife: Must others survive for our lives to have meaning?

by John Danaher

Samuel Scheffler made quite a splash last year with his book Death and the Afterlife. It received impressive recommendations and reviews from numerous commentators, and was featured in a variety of popular outlets, including the Boston Review and the New York Review of Books. I’m a bit late to the party, having only got around to reading it in the past week, but I think I can see what all the fuss was about.



Should we criminalise robotic rape and robotic child sexual abuse?

by John Danaher

I recently published an unusual article. At least, I think it is unusual. It imagines a future in which sophisticated sex robots are used to replicate acts of rape and child sexual abuse, and then asks whether such acts should be criminalised. In the article, I try to provide a framework for evaluating the issue, but I do so in what I think is a provocative fashion. I present an argument for thinking that such acts should be criminalised, even if they have no extrinsically harmful effects on others. I know the argument is going to be unpalatable to some, and I myself balk at its seemingly anti-liberal/anti-libertarian dimensions, but I thought it was sufficiently interesting to be worth spelling out in some detail. Hence why I wrote the article.



#23: Indefinite lifespan in our future; experts ponder responses

by Dick Pelletier

To begin this article on living longer, we focus on a fascinating TED talk where science writer David Duncan poses questions based on "When I'm 164".



Ten Bonus Health Benefits of Birth Control

by Valerie Tarico

We women hear a lot about side effects of birth control, but we don’t hear as much about the side benefits. If you haven’t had a conversation with your doctor lately about family planning, you may be in for some surprises, like the fact that lighter, less frequent periods may be healthier for you.



#24: Cosmic Beings: Transhumanist Deism in Ted Chu’s Cosmic View

by Giulio Prisco

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…



Review of Michio Kaku’s, Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century

by John G. Messerly

Summary of Michio Kaku’s Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century (1997) “There are three great themes in science in the 20th century—the atom, the computer, and the gene.” – Harold Varmus, NIH Director. Three centuries ago Newton said that he was a boy, playing on the seashore while a “great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Life in Newton’s time was, as Hobbes said, “nasty, brutish, and short.” But Newton unleashed a revolution that he could never have imagined. Within a few generations “the basic laws of matter, life, and computation were … solved.” [3-4]



Cure for Aging Can Be Created Using Directed Evolution

by Maria Konovalenko

Accumulating evidence suggests that microbiota plays an important role in modulating lifespan. This makes possible to use symbiotic bacteria as “living drugs”, which live in the host organism and promote its longevity. We propose to create bacteria, which dramatically extend lifespan of its host. Such bacteria have to produce not one, but a set of longevity-promoting substances with optimal concentrations and dynamics of secretion. To obtain such bacteria we propose to use directed evolution, a process that mimics Darwinian selection on a laboratory scale.



The Patents Argument Against GMOs Just Ended With the First Off-Patent GMO

by Ramez Naam

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.



New Technology vs. ‘Untreatable’ Depression

by Kathryn Cave

“Nobody would try ECT (for fun),” says Lesley Galasso, who administers the Brainsway device to treat stubborn clinical depression. “Yet we all tried this (at a low frequency) when we had our training…”



Our Connection to the Future

by John G. Messerly

My son recently shared an interesting idea. Suppose we cryogenically preserve ourselves and send our bodies and brains into space, or simply leave them on earth to be reanimated. Even if advanced beings find us in the future and want to awaken us, there is a good chance that our minds will be too primitive to be rebooted. Our futuristic descendants may not have technology compatible with our primitive mind files. It would be as if we come across an old floppy disk or early telephone but no longer had the technology to run them.



#28 Imagine a time when aging, death no longer dominate our lives

by Dick Pelletier

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.



Brain-based Lie Detection and the Mereological Fallacy

by John Danaher

Some people think that neuroscience will have a significant impact on the law. Some people are more sceptical. A recent book by Michael Pardo and Dennis Patterson — Minds, Brains and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience — belongs to the sceptical camp. In the book, Pardo and Patterson make a passionate plea for conceptual clarity when it comes to the interpretation of neuroscientific evidence and its potential application in the law. They suggest that most neurolaw hype stems from conceptual confusion. They want to throw some philosophical cold water on the proponents of this hype.



#30: Transhumanism: The Robot Human: A Self-Generating Ecosystem

by Tery Spataro

I will attempt to take the fear out of the future, by giving Transhumanism a digestible definition, while at the same time offering a cautionary note. As an educator, technologist and ethicist, I feel I have a social obligation to provide a rationale for understanding Transhumanism for those people who have questions about our natural evolution and for younger generations who are embracing technology but want to know there is a brighter future.



New study shows “BPA-free” labels may increase risky behavior

by Andrew Maynard

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.

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