Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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


Santens @ North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress
September 30-

Hughes, Brin, Anderson, Pellissier, Sirius, Gillis, Kuzsewski @ Future of Politics
October 18
Oakland, California

Santens @ How robotics will affect the availability of employment and social benefits (WEBCAST)
October 26
Brookings Institution, Washington, DC USA

GSA Interest Group “Societal Implications of Delaying Aging”
November 21
Orlando, FL USA

North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress
May 12-15
Manitoba, Canada

MULTIMEDIA: Economic Topics

The Future of Work and Death (Trailer)

Techno-Religions and Silicon Prophets

Robots Are Taking Our Jobs

What is the Future of Virtual Assistants?

Two Brilliant Hacks for Finding Your Calling

Anticipating Technological Unemployment

Basic Income and other ways to fix capitalism

Basic Income and Moral Enhancement

Get Ready for the Asteroid Gold Rush

The Future of Business

3-D Printing Guns, Drugs, and DNA Weapons: Organized Crime Is Being Decentralized

Deep Web

The Age of Robots

We’re approaching humanity’s make or break period

What is the Future of Advertising?

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Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

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Economic Topics

A Critique of The Second Machine Age (Or the Need to Shed our Romantic Ideas About Wage Labor)

by Jon Perry

On the whole, we like The Second Machine Age book. We think it tells a plausible story and for the most part we agree with its perspective. However, we have criticisms of one of the book’s later chapters, the one entitled “Long-Term Recommendations.” Thus the primary goal of this article is to articulate those criticisms. But first, for the sake of background, we will summarize some of the book’s main arguments.

10 Reasons To Call For More Than $10.10 as a Minimum Wage

by Richard Eskow

President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday, January 28 of 2014 raising the minimum wage for some federally contracted workers to $10.10. This move illustrates the fact that we need a higher minimum wage for all workers. It also promotes the bill by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015.

Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee

by John Danaher

Abstract: Is sex work (specifically, prostitution) vulnerable to technological unemployment? Several authors have argued that it is. They claim that the advent of sophisticated sexual robots will lead to the displacement of human prostitutes, just as, say, the advent of sophisticated manufacturing robots have displaced many traditional forms of factory labour. But are they right? In this article, I critically assess the argument that has been made in favour of this displacement hypothesis. Although I grant the argument a degree of credibility, I argue that the opposing hypothesis—that prostitution will be resilient to technological unemployment—is also worth considering. Indeed, I argue that increasing levels of technological unemployment in other fields may well drive more people into the sex work industry. Furthermore, I argue that no matter which hypothesis you prefer—displacement or resilience—you can make a good argument for the necessity of a basic income guarantee, either as an obvious way to correct for the precarity of sex work, or as a way to disincentivise those who may be drawn to prostitution.

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Technological Growth and Unemployment:  A Global Scenario Analysis

by Riccardo Campa

The aim of this article is to explore the possible futures generated by the development of artificial intelligence. Our focus will be on the social consequences of automation and robotisation, with special attention being paid to the problem of unemployment. In spite of the fact that this investigation is mainly speculative in character, we will try to develop our analysis in a methodologically sound way. To start, we will make clear that the relation between technology and structural unemployment is still controversial. Therefore, the hypothetical character of this relation must be fully recognized. Secondly, as proper scenario analysis requires, we will not limit ourselves to predict a unique future, but we will extrapolate from present data at least four different possible developments: 1) unplanned end of work scenario; 2) planned end of robots scenario; 3) unplanned end of robots scenario, and 4) planned end of work scenario. Finally, we will relate the possible developments not just to observed trends but also to social and industrial policies presently at work in our society which may change the course of these trends.

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A Strategic Opening for a Basic Income Guarantee in the Global Crisis

by J. Hughes

Abstract: Robotics and artificial intelligence are beginning to fundamentally change the relative profitability and productivity of investments in capital versus human labor, creating technological unemployment at all levels of the workforce, from the North to the developing world. As robotics and expert systems become cheaper and more capable the percentage of the population that can find employment will also fall, stressing economies already trying to curtail “entitlements” and adopt austerity.

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Personalized Drone Delivery: the new Personal Computer?

by Melanie Swan

Miniaturization, robotics, and the hastening automation economy are coming together in interesting new ways. Personal drone delivery services could be a fast-arriving concept. Amazon announced PrimeAir in November 2013, to possibly be ready for launch in 2015 pending US FAA regulations of personal drone airspace.

Workers and Automata: A Sociological Analysis of the Italian Case

by Riccardo Campa

Abstract: The aim of this investigation is to determine if there is a relation between automation and unemployment within the Italian socio-economic system. Italy is Europe’s second nation and the fourth in the world in terms of robot density, and among the G7 it is the nation with the highest rate of youth unemployment. Establishing the ultimate causes of unemployment is a very difficult task, and the notion itself of ‘technological unemployment’ is controversial. Mainstream economics tends to relate the high rate of unemployment that characterises Italian society with the low flexibility of the labour market and the high cost of manpower. Little attention is paid to the impact of artificial intelligence on the level of employment. With reference to statistical data, we will try to show that automation can be seen at least as a contributory cause of unemployment. In addition, we will argue that both Luddism and anti-Luddism are two faces of the same coin. In both cases attention is focused on technology itself (the means of production) instead of on the system (the mode of production). Banning robots or denying the problems of robotisation are not effective solutions. A better approach would consist in combining growing automation with a more rational redistribution of income.

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BIG and Technological Unemployment: Chicken Little Versus the Economists

by Mark Walker

Abstract: The paper rehearses arguments for and against the prediction of massive technological unemployment. The main argument in favor is that robots are entering a large number of industries, making more expensive human labor redundant. The main argument against the prediction is that for two hundred years we have seen a massive increase in productivity with no long term structural unemployment caused by automation. The paper attempts to move past this argumentative impasse by asking what humans contribute to the supply side of the economy. Historically, humans have contributed muscle and brains to production but we are now being outcompeted by machinery, in both areas, in many jobs. It is argued that this supports the conjecture that massive unemployment is a likely result. It is also argued that a basic income guarantee is a minimal remedial measure to mitigate the worst effects of technological unemployment.

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Are Technological Unemployment and a Basic Income Guarantee Inevitable or Desirable?

by J. Hughes

Abstract: The question is a simple one: if in the future robots take most people’s jobs, how will human beings eat? The answer that has been more or less obvious to most of those who have taken the prospect seriously has been that society’s wealth would need to be re-distributed to support everyone as a citizen’s right. That is the proposition we used to frame this special issue of the journal, and the contributors have explored new and important dimensions of the equation.

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Proposal for International Zones

by R. Dennis Hansen

I hope there will someday be an “International Social Contract” (ISC), based on Enlightenment principles, that allows people who enter into it to live in host countries around the world in a way that is respectful and beneficial to all parties. The goal would be to create explicit agreements that allow members of an ISC to move freely between “International Zones” (IZs) without inflaming right-wing groups or encouraging the abuse of local citizens or indigenous cultures.

5 Obnoxious Libertarian Oligarchs Who Earned Fortunes from the Government They’d Like to Destroy

by Richard Eskow

These highly privileged and highly unaware individuals have been inappropriately lionized by society.The cult of the libertarian-minded ultra-weatlhy would make an intriguing anthropological case study. But it would be a case study with a twist: its research subjects increasingly control our economy, our politics, and even our personal lives. We’re dealing with a cohort of highly fortunate, highly privileged and highly unaware individuals who have been inappropriately lionized by society. That lionization has led them to believe that their wealth and accomplishments are their own doing, rather than the fruits of collaborative effort – effort which in many cases was only made possible through government support.

The End of Nation States May Enhance Humanity

by Harry J. Bentham

Perhaps parallel to the physical enhancement of human ability and longevity through technology, enhancements to civilization must also have cultural and political forms. By far the most important of these could be the neglect and final dissolution of borders and “nations”.

500 Words on Cryptocurrencies

by Jamais Cascio

It will likely come as little or no surprise that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin (my favorite) are frequent topics of conversation among futurist types. After all, they’re supposed to be paradigm-breaking disruptions of the status quo, or something. But I still haven’t gotten over my sense that something isn’t quite fully-baked about the current generation of digital currencies, and I’m going to spend my ~500 words here trying to spell out why.

Welcome to the New Age of Revolution

by Rick Searle

Last week the prime minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azarov, resigned under pressure from a series of intense riots that had spread from Kiev to the rest of the country. Photographs from the riots in The Atlantic blew my mind, like something out of a dystopian steampunk flic. Many of the rioters were dressed in gas masks that looked as if they had been salvaged from World War I. As weapons they wielded homemade swords, molotov cocktails, and fireworks. To protect their heads some wore kitchen pots and spaghetti strainers.

Does Inequality Matter?

by David Brin

During his State of the Union Address, President Obama brought into the open, a topic we've all been mulling, lately… the worrisome rise in wealth and income disparity.  Especially in the U.S., where two generations have grown up under the blithe illusion (unprecedented in human history) that matters of class are no-big-deal. Knowing that we're about to discuss the calamitous effects of a rising plutocracy, some of you will click away.

Cryptocurrencies as a Single Pool of Wealth

by Gennady Stolyarov II

Thoughts on the Purchasing Power of Decentralized Electronic Money
 The recent meteoric rise in the dollar price of Bitcoin – from around $12 at the beginning of 2013 to several peaks above $1000 at the end – has brought widespread attention to the prospects for and future of cryptocurrencies. I have no material stake in Bitcoin (although I do accept donations), and this article will not attempt to predict whether the current price of Bitcoin signifies mostly lasting value or a bubble akin to the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s. Instead of speculation about any particular price level, I hope here to establish a principle pertaining to the purchasing power of cryptocurrencies in general, since Bitcoin is no longer the only one.

Femen in North America! Interview with the Feminist- Activist - Topless Leaders

by Hank Pellissier

Femen is notoriously well-known for its anti-authoritarian, anti-religion “top-free” protest activities in Europe, especially in the Ukraine (where they’re originally from) and in Paris, where they’re presently headquartered. Recent activities include disruption of a Catholic Christmas Mass in Cologne Cathedral in Germany, where Josephine – a Femen “sextremist” – clambered up and posed on the altar, arms widespread, with “I Am God” scrawled in black paint on her torso.

Rule by Algorithm? Big Data and the Threat of Algocracy

by John Danaher

An increasing number of people are worried about the way in which our data is being mined by governments and corporations. One of these people is Evgeny Morozov. In an article that appeared in the MIT Technology Review back in October 2013, he argued that this trend poses a serious threat to democracy, one that should be resisted through political activism and “sabotage”. As it happens, I have written about similar threats to democracy myself in the past, so I was interested to see how Morozov defended his view.

“Jobs or Inequality”? That’s No Choice at All

by Richard Eskow

What's the economic issue we should focus on - jobs, or inequality? An increasing number of people, including the President and New York's new mayor, have suggested that inequality of wealth and opportunity is the defining issue of our time. But some of the folks at the Washington Post's "WonkBlog" are having none of it. First editor Ezra Klein declared that unemployment, not inequality, should be the left's defining issue. That drew responses from the likes of Paul Krugman and Jared Bernstein (and yours truly, here).

Pettit on Republicanism and the Basic Income

by John Danaher

As an addendum to my recent series on libertarianism and the basic income, I thought I would look at another political philosophy and the case it makes for the same proposal. The philosophy in question is civic republicanism, which has its roots in antiquity, but has most recently been defended by the philosopher Philip Pettit.

Libertarianism and the Basic Income (Part Three)

by John Danaher

This is the third, and final, part in my series on libertarianism and the basic income. To quickly recap, the universal basic income (UBI) is a proposal for reforming the way in which welfare is paid, moving away from a selective and conditional system of payment to a universal and unconditional one. Libertarianism is a political philosophical associated with the individual rights, the celebration of the free market, and the minimal state.

Analysis of STRATFOR Leaks Misrepresents Nonviolent Movements

by David Swanson

Carl Gibson and Steve Horn have done an important service in writing their article outlining Srdja Popovic’s inexcusable collaboration with the global intelligence company STRATFOR and his disclosure of the activities of movements and activists with whom he has worked.  Unfortunately, as will be spelled out below, the article falls into a rather simplistic and reductionist analysis of Popovic’s motivations and, more critically, misrepresents the nature of the popular uprisings in Serbia and other countries. The article also contains a number of factual errors and misleading statements. 

#17 A Letter to Sergey Brin

by Maria Konovalenko

I’ve heard you are interested in the topics of aging and longevity. This is very cool, because fighting for radical life extension is the wisest and most humanitarian strategy. I would like to tell you what needs to be done, but, unfortunately, I haven’t got your email address, or any other way to be heard.

5 Ways Conservatives Promote Shirking and Freeloading

by Valerie Tarico

Early in high school my daughters learned a lesson about group projects: some people don’t like to pull their weight. It wasn’t the kids who struggled to produce quality work that the girls found most frustrating. As fiery Ohio State Senator Nina Turner says, “We don’t all run the race at the same pace,” and the girls got that. It was the shirkers. I myself used to want one of those bumper stickers that say, “Mean people suck.” The girls would have wanted one that said, “Freeloaders suck.”

Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Mania!

by Melanie Swan
With bitcoin nearly doubling in value in the last few weeks (surpassing USD $400 on November 9, 2013 and reaching USD $937 on November 29, 2013) (see this chart in Figure 1 and the real-time exchange rate), the question is whether it is just another inflationary virtual currency bubble like WOW gold and Second Life Lindens, or a trend that will endure.

Privacy, Social Media, and Public Health: A Changing Landscape

by Donna Hanrahan

Communications technology use is growing at a near exponential rate on a global scale.1 A recent United Nations study shows that more people have access to cell phones than toilets, as 6 billion of the world’s 7 billion people (85 percent) have access to mobile phones, while only 4.5 billion (64 percent) have access to working toilets.2

Life Extension and Distributive Justice

by John Danaher

Life expectancy increased dramatically over the course of the 20th century. In the UK and US — to take two obvious examples — it increased by approximately 30 years. Further increases are projected in the future. In addition to this, advances in medical technology are hoped by many, and demanded by some, to dramatically increase lifespan (a subtly different concept from life expectancy) in the coming century. It may soon come to pass that lifespans of 120 to 150 years are no longer confined to the realms of science fiction.

No on 522: Label GMOs, But Not This Way

by Ramez Naam

Consumers clearly want to know whether their food contains genetically modified ingredients. Given that huge interest, foods containing GMOs should be labeled. I’ve written as much before at the website of Discover magazine, trying to persuade scientists that they should support GMO labels.

Secession in the Valley, and the End of Politics

by Jamais Cascio

Andrew Leonard has a short, sharp piece in Salon entitled "Silicon Valley dreams of secession," about a recent talk by tech entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan calling for the Valley to secede from the US on a wave of 3D printers, drones, and bitcoins.

A Question on Prostitution and the Left: My response to Meghan Murphy’s analysis

by B. J. Murphy

The question of prostitution has been a matter of debate throughout the progressive left for many years. To engage this topic as unbiased as possible, I must first admit that, as a white male, I cannot say that I am the best subject to take on this particular question under the personal perspective of the oppressed: that of women, who are predominantly not white.

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