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.
Sixty years after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of school integration, a review by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that “Schools remain segregated today because neighborhoods in which they are located are segregated.” EPI’s Richard Rothstein found that “raising (the educational) achievement of low-income black children requires residential integration, from which school integration can follow.”
Any attempt to guide the future must first understand the future, and to understand the future, one must first reject the “consensus view” of the future. The consensus view, shaped by decades of media visions of technological utopias, and corporate controlled dystopias, is filled with expectations that block any ability to examine future trends based on current technological realities with unrealistic concepts that demand the future conform to these pre-made “ideals”.
A few weeks back I wrote a post on how the recent discovery of gravitational lensing provided evidence for inflationary models of the Big Bang. These are cosmological models that imply some version of the multiverse, essentially the idea that ours is just one of a series of universes, a tiny bubble, or region, of a much, much larger universe where perhaps even the laws of physics or rationality of mathematics differed from one region to another.
If you were to receive a check in the mail with $5,000 to inform as many people as possible about the desirability and the prospects for indefinite life extension, to get them interested in the people, projects and organizations working directly or indirectly toward indefinite life extension, then how might you spend it?
If we extended our lives by 200 years, or if we succeeded in uploading our minds to an artificial substrate, would we undermine our sense of personal identity? If so, would it be wiser to avoid such radical forms of enhancement? These are the questions posed in chapter 4 of Nicholas Agar’s book Truly Human Enhancement. Over the next two posts I’ll take a look at Agar’s answers. This is all part of my ongoing series of reflections on Agar’s book.
The Boston Globe reported that enrollment in the UMass Boston undergraduate gerontology program has fallen by two-thirds, to a mere 13 students, over the last decade. A relaunch in 2010 failed to yield more students. For that reason, UMass Boston’s decision to suspend the gerontology undergraduate program was a bow to reality.
I recently published an article in the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of sex work and technological unemployment (available here, here and here). It began by asking whether sex work, specifically prostitution (as opposed to other forms of labour that could be classified as “sex work”, e.g. pornstar or erotic dancer), was vulnerable to technological unemployment. It looked at contrasting responses to that question, and also included some reflections on technological unemployment and the basic income guarantee.
Has human evolution and progress been propelled by war? The question is not an easy one to ask, not least because war is not merely one of the worst but arguably the worst thing human beings inflict on one another comprising murder, collective theft, and, almost everywhere but in the professional militaries of Western powers, and only quite recently, mass, and sometimes systematic rape.
This is the third part of my series on Nicholas Agar’s bookTruly Human Enhancement. As mentioned previously, Agar stakes out an interesting middle ground on the topic of enhancement. He argues that modest forms of enhancement — i.e. up to or slightly beyond the current range of human norms — are prudentially wise, whereas radical forms of enhancement — i.e. well beyond the current range of human norms — are not. His main support for this is his belief that in radically enhancing ourselves we will lose certain internal goods. These are goods that are intrinsic to some of our current activities.
It’s been 50 years since Isaac Asimov devised his famous Three Laws of Robotics — a set of rules designed to ensure friendly robot behavior. Though intended as a literary device, these laws are heralded by some as a ready-made prescription for avoiding the robopocalypse. We spoke to the experts to find out if Asimov's safeguards have stood the test of time — and they haven't.
This is the second post in my series on Nicholas Agar's new book Truly Human Enhancement. The book offers an interesting take on the enhancement debate. It tries to carve out a middle ground between bioconservatism and transhumanism, arguing that modest enhancement (within or slightly beyond the range of human norms) is prudentially valuable, but that radical enhancement (well beyond the range of human norms) may not be.
Danger and death are part and parcel of being alive. But with a few notable exceptions, it’s hard to find straightforward information online on how to make sense of stuff that potentially threaten our health and wellbeing. Which is a pity, because as well as being important for making smart decisions, there’s some really cool science behind how what we touch, breathe, eat, or otherwise come into contact with affects our health.
I live in Washington State, and all the news for the last two weeks has been the unthinkable Oso mudslide. Slides are not unusual here, although I have never heard of one with this much destructive force. It got me reflecting about the relationship between earth and water.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there’s no question that humankind has made tremendous strides in developing new technologies. While machines can replicate many movements and actions of humans, the next challenge lies in teaching them to think for themselves and react to changing conditions.
Nicholas Agar has written several books about the ethics of human enhancement. In his latest, Truly Human Enhancement, he tries to stake out an interesting middle ground in the enhancement debate. Unlike the bioconservatives, Agar is not opposed to the very notion of enhancing human capacities. On the contrary, he is broadly in favour it. But unlike the radical transhumanists, he does not embrace all forms of enhancement.
It seems almost as long as we could speak human beings have been arguing over what, if anything, makes us different from other living creatures. Mark Pagel’s recent book Wired for Culture: The Origins of the Human Social Mind is just the latest incantation of this millennia old debate, and as it has always been, the answers he comes up with have implications for our relationship with our fellow animals, and, above all, our relationship with one another, even if Pagel doesn’t draw many such implications.
In breaking news an international conglomerate of scientists is to release their stem cell therapy rejuvenation injections next month. They have stated that for everyone injection paid for they will provide two free versions to designated countries and welfare recipients in non-designated countries.
The tattoo on my right upper forearm is that of a polypeptide chain of the neurotransmitter Substance P. This neurotransmitter is responsible for the feeling of pain being transmitted to the central nervous system. Next to it says “RNAi This!” RNAi (Ribonucleic acid interference) is responsible for determining what genes are turned on and what are turned off.
If we really pride ourselves on our critical thinking we ought to be able to take other people’s best arguments on board and show if and why they are mistaken. And Maaneli did make a very good argument in defense of parapsychology.
In a media frenzy akin to the Komen scandal, Evangelical aid organization World Vision announced recently that it would allow legally married and monogamous queer Christians on its payroll. Conservative co-religionists, including Franklin Graham of Billy Graham Ministries, and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention took to the media denouncing the decision as a violation of biblical Christianity and all that is good.