Give events of late I thought it relevant to re-post this piece from the summer of 2014 on the militarization of policing. Sadly, almost nothing has changed, except that my prediction that police would start using robots to kill people has come true, though in a way I certainly did not anticipate. I haven’t changed anything from the original post besides cleaning up the some of the shitty grammar and adding the mind-blowing photo by Jonathan Bachman, a freelancer for Reuters. If they have history books in 20 years time that photo will be in them.
I received a correspondence from a reader who wonders about “the triumph of judgment over spontaneity as we emerge from childhood into adulthood and the consequent obstacle it poses for living in psychic comfort.” In other words she worries about how to reconcile “a naturally felt purposefulness and zest for life against an intellectual sense of life’s essential pointlessness and its indifference to human concerns that give rise to the recognition of absurdity.” The only consolation she experiences is with her grandchildren “as they go about engaging the world with perfect unmediated wonder, boundless energy, and demands for attention.”
There’ll be a new civilization, the sum of human intelligence and artificial intelligence, where artificial intelligence will be able to analyze a problem, identify the resources needed to deal with it, plan a strategy, adapt and improve itself to resolve the problem.” It will do this not only for specific, planned objectives – like the IBM computer that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1996 or the vision system that recognizes obstacles in today’s self-driving cars – but “in a generalized way, with any problem”. This will happen soon, “within the next two or three decades”. A valuable time “for us to get ready for a world that will see huge changes, and make sure the effects are positive and compatible with people’s lives and aspirations”.
There are two ways to avoid an existential catastrophe involving advanced technologies, such as nuclear weapons, biotechnology, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology. First, we could study the technologies and figure out ways to make them more difficult for malicious agents to exploit. And second, we could study the malicious agents and figure out ways of reducing the probability of them wanting to exploit such technologies.
Everyone knows about the Turing Test. It was first proposed by Alan Turing in his famous 1950 paper ‘On Computing Machinery and Intelligence’. The paper started with the question ‘Can a machine think?’. Turing noted that philosophers would be inclined to answer that question by hunting for a definition. They would identify the necessary and sufficient conditions for thinking and then they would try to see whether machines met those conditions. They would probably do this by closely investigating the ordinary language uses of the term ‘thinking’ and engaging in a series of rational reflections on those uses. At least, Oxbridge philosophers in the 1950s would have been inclined to do it this way.
The Technoethical Ethos of Technic Self-Determination
This paper addresses concerns that the development and proliferation of Human Enhancement Technologies (HET) will be (a) dehumanizing and (b) a threat to our autonomy and sovereignty as individuals. The paper argues contrarily that HET constitutes nothing less than one of the most effective foreseeable means of increasing the autonomy and sovereignty of individual members of society. Furthermore, it elaborates the position that the use of HET exemplifies – and indeed even intensifies – our most human capacity and faculty: namely the desire for increased self-determination, which is referred to as the will toward self-determination. Based upon this position, the paper argues that the use of HET bears fundamental ontological continuity with the human condition in general and with the historically-ubiquitous will toward self-determination in particular. HET will not be a dehumanizing force, but will rather serve to increase the very capacity that characterizes us as human more accurately than anything else.
Some people are frightened of the future. They think humanity is teetering on the brink. Something radical must be done to avoid falling over the edge. This is the message underlying Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu’s book Unfit for the Future. In it they argue that humanity faces several significant existential risks (e.g. anthropocentric climate change, weapons of mass destruction, loss of biodiversity etc.).
Transhumanists will know that the science fiction author Zoltan Istvan has unilaterally leveraged the movement into a political party contesting the 2016 US presidential election. To be sure, many transhumanists have contested Istvan’s own legitimacy, but there is no denying that he has generated enormous publicity for many key transhumanist ideas. Interestingly, his lead idea is that the state should do everything possible to uphold people’s right to live forever. Of course, he means to live forever in a healthy state, fit of mind and body. Istvan cleverly couches this policy as simply an extension of what voters already expect from medical research and welfare provision. And while he may be correct, the policy is fraught with hazards – especially if, as many transhumanists believe, we are on the verge of revealing the secrets to biological immortality.
On the 25 of September Marcelo Rinesi published his article ‘The Price for the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world’. With this response, I want to take on the implicit challenge he poses. How can we build an internet of things that will not fill us with dread? This article will present my ideas on a ‘transparent smart chargepoint’. Let me explain what I mean by this. ‘Chargepoint’ refers to the device that is designed for charging for electric cars. ‘Smart’ refers to the fact that the chargepoint optimizes the charging process on various variables – such as the price of electricity, the congestion on the electricity grid. ‘Transparent’ means that it is designed to be open as open as possible about the algorithms that run it.
In a remarkable 2012 IEET blog, “The Praxis,” Dirk Bruere introduced a quasi-religious conception of Transhumanism that not only foresaw the possibility of technological immortality for selfish individuals, but notably suggested that we have the obligation to help each other achieve eternal life, even using advanced technology as best we can to provide salvation to people who have already died:
Over the last few decades one hears the term ‘community’ bandied about with increasing frequency. The most quoted is in my anecdotal memory the ‘black community’. One also often hears about the ‘gay community’ and more recently the ‘lgbt (or lgbtq) community’.
Humanism has become a necessity for Africa and for Africans particularly for young people across the region who are struggling to make sense of life and existence. Youths are critical to any human endeavor because they are the agents of hope, continuity, change and promise. Without young people, any society or initiative will go into extinction. Without young people, there is no future for humanity. So, it is with Africa and the humanist movement in the region.
Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. ~ Bertrand Russell
Google’s recent victory against top-ranked Go player Lee Sedol marks another milestone in artificial intelligence development, and though this might be considered “old” news by today’s standard, it’s still a fresh achievement for the AI world.
Le mois de décembre 2015 a vu la signature d’un accord dit « universel », par 195 pays, et qui marquera peut-être un tournant dans la manière dont les humains envisagent collectivement leur rapport à la Terre. Les technoprogressistes pourront s’en réjouir à double titre. D’une part il doit permettre de mieux affronter les immenses défis que nous imposent les crises climatiques, mais d’autre part, loin d’un écologisme fondamentaliste, il reconnaît, dans son article 10, « l’importance qu’il y a à donner pleinement effet à la mise au point et au transfert de technologies de façon à accroître la résilience … ».
Unnoted by many, the transhumanist forerunner Zoltan Istvan has founded the “U.S. Transhumanist Party” and is running for U.S. president in the November 2016 election. He is touring the nation in his campaign vehicle, the “Immortality Bus,” since one of his promises is: “Do you want to live forever? Vote for me!” Like other transhumanists, Istvan aims at opening up new political perspectives, if not even a “post-ideological” political sphere characterized by technological universalism. TLR spoke with political and social analyst Roland Benedikter about the backgrounds and the perspectives. The interview builds on previous interviews and articles of Benedikter, for example HERE and HERE.
According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, 51% of Americans are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that a family member will be killed by terrorists. Another Gallup Poll found that 11% of Americans are afraid of “thunder and lightning.” Yet the average person is at least four times more likely to die from a lightning bolt than a terrorist attack.
While the idea may sound absurd, it happened just a few generations ago. The industrial north and the slave-holding, agrarian south couldn’t agree on, among other things, the extension of slavery into new states, as both sides didn’t want the other to gain a congressional voting advantage. A series of compromises over many years maintained the delicate balance, but gradually the two sides became more partisan, the rhetoric more divisive, and civil discourse eventually disappeared. Soon violence would be used to adjudicate their disputes, with the south firing the first shot. Within four years 700,000 Americans were dead, thousands more injured, homeless, widowed or orphaned. If that proportion of Americans were killed today, about 8 million Americans would die. The south thought that slavery and the lifestyle it provided were worth dying and killing for … and die and kill they did.
[This the text of a talk I’m delivering at the ICM Neuroethics Network in Paris this week]
Santiago Guerra Pineda was a 19-year old motorcycle enthusiast. In June 2014, he took his latest bike out for a ride. It was a Honda CBR 600, a sports motorcycle with some impressive capabilities. Little wonder then that he opened it up once he hit the road. But maybe he opened it up a little bit too much? He was clocked at over 150mph on the freeway near Miami Beach in Florida. He was going so fast that the local police decided it was too dangerous to chase him. They only caught up with him when he ran out of gas.
A classic objection to the radical extension of life is: “But such an extension will lead to an overpopulation crisis!”
The idea is simple: as the resources and space of our planet are not unlimited, if the older generations stop dying and the newer generations continue to be born, then sooner or later, we will run out of both space and resources.
In 1832 the English architect, Augustus Pugin, published his beautiful book Contrasts. The book was full of sketches in which Pugin juxtaposed the bland, utilitarian architecture of the 19th century with the intricate splendor of buildings built in medieval Europe.
I would like to be a better swimmer, a better runner, a better guitarist, a better singer, a better lecturer, a better writer, a better organiser, a better partner, and generally a better person. But how can I achieve all these things? I have no method. I approach things haphazardly, hoping that sheer repetition will lead to betterment. This hope is probably forlorn.
Parce que la réflexion Transhumaniste questionne ce que sera l’homme de demain, l’Association française transhumaniste vous livrera deux fois par mois une chronique sur l’actualité, attention chroniques étranges et décalées à prévoir : le Futur prend la plume sur Silicon Maniacs !
Our smart phones, smart watches, and smart bands promise a lot. They promise to make our lives better, to increase our productivity, to improve our efficiency, to enhance our safety, to make us fitter, faster, stronger and more intelligent. They do this through a combination of methods. One of the most important is outsourcing,* i.e. by taking away the cognitive and emotional burden associated with certain activities. Consider the way in which Google maps allows us to outsource the cognitive labour of remembering directions. This removes a cognitive burden and potential source of anxiety, and enables us to get to our destinations more effectively. We can focus on more important things. It’s clearly a win-win.
We’ve seen exoskeletons before, but nothing quite like this one. The new brace, developed by Spanish researchers, will help children with spinal muscular atrophy.
The 26-pound device consists of long support rods and are adjusted to fit around a child’s legs and torso. A series of motors mimic human muscles in the joints, endowing the patient the required strength to stand upright and walk. A series of sensors, along with a movement controller and a five-hour battery, complete the system. The aluminum and titanium device can also be expanded and modified to accommodate children between the age of 3 and 14.
There is now an almost constant stream of articles saying what was politically incorrect to state out loud just 5-8 years ago – Technological Unemployment is certain, it is imminent and ‘something like a basic income’ will be necessary. I have said so much on this societal issue in the last ten years that it quite often feels like an obligatory rehash of the arguments in favor of a basic income. The best and most authoritative arguments are still being voiced by Martin Ford and I suggest everyone to check his level-headed and well researched presentations on the topic. In my understanding Martin blows arguments against out of the water.
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