Yesterday was the Fourth of July. That’s the day we celebrate the vision and courage shown by our nation’s founders. July 4th is the day they published a document which said it was “self-evident” that everyone has “certain unalienable rights,” including the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
After rising from the primordial soup 3.5 billion years ago, Earth life began an evolutionary trip that has produced today’s amazing humans. Positive futurists now ponder what’s next. Hawking, Kurzweil, Kaku, Drexler, and other visionaries see technologies advancing exponentially in the coming centuries, which could provide peace, affluence, and increased intelligence, with lifespans approaching immortality.
A few weeks have passed now since the Supreme Court struck down Myriad’s patents on mutations in BRCA genes 1 and 2 correlating to higher rates of breast and ovarian cancers, and the airwaves and blogosphere are still awash with a plethora of incriminations, congratulations, and musings about what it all means, I want to address what is to me a central lesson: philosophy matters.
I’m tired of walls, fences, borders, anything that divides us. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” There’s the Berlin Wall, The Fence (between the USA and Mexico), Hadrian’s Wall, and the Great Wall of China. There is Africa which was divided into countries by the colonial powers using boundaries that frequently made no sense whatsoever; they are just lines on a map that require border crossings. Historic dividers may be intriguing tourist attractions, but they were rarely useful for their proposed function. They have become obsolete emblems of civilization’s failures.
Eugenics is a curse word. The very idea of Eugenics can no longer be disassociated from the atrocities waged in its name. On account of this idea people were imprisoned, tortured, mutilated and murdered, all throughout the western world.
There are writers and futurists who are swimming upstream against a tide of people screaming about the sky falling. Ramez Naam is one of the them, offering practical tools and illuminating the power of imagination and initiative.
If your daily routine took you from one homegrown organic garden to another, bypassing vast fields choked with pesticides, you might feel pretty good about the current state of agriculture. If your daily routine takes you from one noncommercial progressive website to another, you might feel pretty good about the current state of the Internet. But while mass media have supplied endless raptures about a digital revolution, corporate power has seized the Internet—and the anti-democratic grip is tightening every day.
A lot of people would like to live forever, or at least for much longer than they currently do. But there is one obvious impediment to this: our biological bodies break down over time and cannot (with current technologies) be sustained indefinitely. So what can be done to avoid our seemingly inevitable demise? For some, like Aubrey de Grey, the answer lies in tweaking and re-engineering our biological bodies. For others, the answer lies in the more radical solution of mind-uploading, or the technological replacement of our current biological bodies.
The structure of many African economies is unbalanced and unable to deliver labor intensive and inclusive growth. Most African economies are characterized by both excessive dependence on export revenues from a few commodities and external financial flows (FDI, aid and remittances) and a weak industrial base and predominance of subsistence agriculture.
Roger Howard presents plausible scenarios regarding the geopolitical dangers of peak oil. Equally plausible scenarios could envision some positive impacts, because countries dependent on natural resources are often poor and undemocratic, while countries dependent on human resources are often rich and democratic.
Picture this: You wake up far too early one morning because your hand is intensely painful and you don’t know why. When the pain gets worse, you go to the ER. The attending doctor, a gray haired man, examines you, draws blood, and then tells you an unusual flesh eating infection in your finger is putting your health at risk. He recommends amputating the hand immediately before the infection causes more harm. What he doesn’t tell you is that at this early stage the simple injection of a state-of-the art antibiotic would solve the problem. Why the omission?
It should be within our rights to take our own lives when the circumstances warrant it. That means we must be prepared to accept laws in favor of assisted suicide. This becomes even more important in light of potential technologies that could grant us extreme longevity.
One of the stranger features of our era is its imaginative exhaustion in terms of the future, which I realize is a strange thing to say her. This exhaustion is not so much of an issue when it comes to imagining tomorrow’s gadgets, or scientific breakthroughs, but becomes apparent once the question of the future political and economic order is at stake. In fact, the very idea that something different will almost inevitably follow the institutions and systems we live in seems to have retreated from our consciousness at the very time when the endemic failures of our political and economic order has shown that the current world can not last.
When people find out that my mother died of non-small cell lung cancer, almost invariably, the first thing they ask is, “did she smoke?”1 It’s a truism that holds today, and it started shortly after she was diagnosed – even from people who should have known better. In other words, every bioethicist, save one, flat-out asked me that.
Submissions are invited for a special issue of the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of the impending global decline of employment due to automation, disintermediation and other effects of emerging technologies, and the need for reform and expansion of state income support such as a universal basic income guarantee (BIG). Papers questioning the premises of technological unemployment or the desirability of a BIG are also welcome.
Poverty and violence are decreasing worldwide, at truly amazing rates. And of course - as we have seen - this fact seems anathema to grouches of both the far left and the entire right. But it does prove that the Great Program instituted by George Marshall, Harry Truman, Dean Acheson and Dwight Eisenhower has been working, in a spectacular mix of good development assistance and the better half of capitalism.
Democracies have existed for a long time without lobbying, and have worked very well, thank you very much. Indeed, institutionalized lobbying is a recent phenomenon, pretty much exported by the United States, and still relatively young in other Western countries.
Agriculture remains at the center of the African continent’s socio-economic development. It contributes a third of Africa’s total GDP, albeit with regional diversities driven by differences in weather and climatic conditions, the economic value of agricultural products, and the importance of other resources.
The impact of new technologies on the economy is a hot topic right now. Just a few years ago, the idea of machines replacing human labor was widely dismissed, but now a growing number of pundits and economists are expressing concerns about the impact of automation technologies and the possibility of technological unemployment.
One of the most common anti-Transhumanist tropes one finds recurring throughout Transhumanist rhetoric is our supposedly rampant hubris. Hubris is an ancient Greek concept meaning excess of pride that carries connotations of reckless vanity and heedless self-absorbment, often to the point of carelessly endangering the welfare of others in the process. It paints us in a selfish and dangerous light, as though we were striving for the technological betterment of ourselves alone and the improvement of the human condition solely as it pertains to ourselves, so as to be enhanced relative to the majority of humanity.
Did you know that Apple Computer was a foreign entity? Did you know that it’s more Irish than anything else, at least as far as taxes are concerned? Or that it pays very little in income tax, even though its products wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for projects funded by U.S. taxes?
One of the things that has always struck me as different — and not in a good way — in the United States compared to other Western countries is the way Americans think (and act) about crime, particularly their prison system. Recently, my colleagues Ken Taylor (Stanford) and John Perry (University of California-Riverside) have tackled the issue on their wonderful podcast, Philosophy Talk (which comes with an associated blog, the tagline of which is cogito, ergo blog), causing me to ponder some more disturbing thoughts about it.
In Khannea SunTzu remarkable new novel she’ll never write - The NeoProgressive’s New Deal - the leader character, Cassandra Assange (Daughter of Julian Assange, born in 2003), is the target of literal micro drone assassination attempts, a vicious media campaign and endless incapacitating litigation. She became a political activist like her father in the mid 2020s, and exemplified the new counter-cultural ideal. Militantly lesbian and technoprogressive she gave birth of a clone of her wife, and her wife gave birth to a clone of Cassandra in the late 2020s.
As reactions continue to race around the internet about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery – the actual discussions, not the Monday-morning quarterbacking of her decision or the utterly vile “but what about her boobies” reaction from that particular subgroup of men who manage to amaze me by their continued ability to manage basic functions like breathing – I’ve been sent links.
In total, Africa’s growth rate has averaged well above 5% in the past decade, after 20 difficult years of flat and often negative growth in several countries. The challenge for the continent in the coming years is whether Africa will be able to maintain these impressive growth rates, and whether future growth will be built on the types of productivity enhancements that are associated with rising living standards.
"Everybody's private motto: It's better to be popular than right…" I've grown increasingly unfavorable toward the term Big Pharma. Despite our best of efforts among the progressive and revolutionary left in recognizing Big Pharma as a by-product of capital bureaucracy among the healthcare industry, the term has become completely diluted with leftist conspiracy theorism.
The issue of employment has grown in prominence on national and global development agendas in recent times, given its socio-economic and political implications. Though the employment challenge has its own dimensions, it scourges countries worldwide regardless of their stage of socio-economic development. Thus, employment is currently a global policy issue.