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.
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.
As the Supreme Court reviews the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods cases in coming weeks, attorneys for the business owners will argue that their religious freedom (and that of the corporations!) is being violated by the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. But not all religious leaders agree.
Caplan’s work fosters greater understanding of science, medicine and ethics. On March 24, 2014 the National Science Board (NSB) announced that renowned bioethicist and IEET Trustee Arthur Caplan, a global leader in medical ethics, is the 2014 recipient of its Public Service Award for an individual.
I’ve been thinking of ways in which Biocentric Universe Theory and multiverse theory could both be true. What if our nature as conscious beings inhabiting a multiverse of endless possibilities, where we are quantum-superposition beings, actually all adds up to us creating the multiverse, while perceiving time and space only within the limitations of our immediately observable, three-spatial/one-time-dimensional universe?
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.
Everyone alive today owes their life to a man most of us have never heard of, and that I didn’t even know existed until last week. On September, 26 1983, just past mid-night, Soviet lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov was alerted by his satellite early warning system that an attack from an American ICBM was underway. Normal protocol should have resulted in Petrov giving the order to fire Russian missiles at the US in response.
Futurism—scenario-based foresight, in particular—has many parallels to science fiction literature, enough that the two can sometimes be conflated. It’s no coincidence that there’s quite a bit of overlap between the science fiction writer and futurist communities, and (as a science fiction reader since I was old enough to read) I could myself as extremely fortunate to be able to call many science fiction writers friends.
The treatment is considered radical, and the results were drawn from a small scale human trial, but for the first time in medical history, researchers have boosted their patients’ ability to fight HIV by replacing some of their natural immune cells with genetically modified versions.
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?
My past finally catches up to my future self. I’ve been around the collection, gathering, analysis and usage of data since 1986. In 1999, I was invited to the SIME conference in Stockholm. It was an impressive event that provided simulating and thought-provoking ideas about new technologies. At that time, these technologies were Bluetooth, wireless and smart phones…
Most of the ethical discussion of the use of stimulant drugs without a prescription in education has been negative, associating their use with performance enhancement in sports and with drug abuse. But the use of stimulants as study drugs actually has few side effects, and is almost entirely applied to the student’s primary obligation, academic performance. In this essay I consider some objections to off-label stimulant use, and to stimulant therapy for ADD, and argue that there are ethical arguments for the use of stimulants, and for future cognitively and morally enhancing therapies, in education, the work place, and daily life.
Transhumanism is mostly shown, as a next evolutionary step of humans, which as we know, is transitory. From a legal perspective, transhumanism brings many hopes, promises, but also questions and problems. My prior articles concerned mainly the case of mind uploading, whole brain emulation and artificial intelligence’s. This one will concern something more complex.
The FDA is considering approving an experiment to repair a genetic disease in humans by creating embryos with DNA from three parents. Genes would be transferred from a healthy human egg to one that has a disease and the “repaired” egg then fertilized in the hope that a healthy baby will result. The goal of the experiment in genetic engineering is not a perfect baby but a healthy baby.
My friend Jon Foley, who I have a great deal of respect for, has a piece up arguing that GMOs have failed to improve global food security because they fall into a trap of reductionist thinking. With due respect to Jon, I see this a different way.
I want to share with you how an ancient and unique philosophy from Madagascar just might be able to help out some political knuckleheads over in the backwards bureaucracy of Missouri. The scopes monkey trial might be closing in on 90 years behind us, yet the debate over evolution in our schools rages on. Most pathetically, and recently, in good ol' Missouri, USA. Missouri's House Bill 1472, which would essentially require schools to notify parents prior to the teaching of evolution content in the classroom, so that parents could 'opt-out' of their children's education.
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.
Apparently, vegans and paleos /”cavemen” are completely at odds, and may even hate each other, according to numerous articles you can look up yourself.. [ If true, then how, - and to which extent am I wondering.., - does this apply to Transhumanists.. ]
For most of our days and for most of the time we live in the world of Daniel Kahneman’s experiencing self. What we pay attention to is whatever is right in front of us, which can range from the pain of hunger to the boredom of cubicle walls. Nature has probably wired us this way, the stone age hunter and gatherer still in our heads, where the failure to focus on the task at hand came with the risk of death. A good deal of modern society, and especially contemporary technology such as smart phones, leverages this presentness and leaves us trapped in its muck, a reality Douglas Rushkoff brilliantly lays out in hisPresent Shock.
"The year is 2032. You have just celebrated your 80th birthday and you have a tough decision ahead. You can keep repairing your current body or move into a new one. The growing of 'blank' bodies has become all the rage in the 2030s, and by using your own genetic material, body farmers can now recreate your own strong, healthy body as it appeared at age 20."