Yesterday in Shanghai, a woman miscarried. The child that wasn’t born would have led a unified China to attack and defeat India, Russia, and finally Europe, resulting in a Chinese empire that ruled the world from 2050 to 2100. Instead, China wilted under internal political strife caused by economic and environmental pressures, and became a second-rate power in the 21st century.
Transhumanism spans a huge swath of intellectual territory, straddling bioethics, philosophy, science fiction, engineering, and computer science. Throw in conspiracy theories and cyberpunk nihilism and you have all the ingredients for Deus Ex.
Dr. Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has accepted an appointment as Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies for 2010.
In a recently concluded poll, IEET readers showed a mix of attitudes toward the “scientific discoveries and technological accomplishments” of the last ten years. Now we want to know what you think about the social and political developments of that same period.
Today I gave a brief invited talk at the National Defense University, in Washington DC, about the ethics of autonomous robot missiles and war vehicles and “battlebots” (my word, not theirs!) in general. The talk came about as a consequence of my role in the IEET, but I wound up bringing in a number of explicitly H+ themes.
Japan and Turkey form an alliance to attack the United States. Poland becomes America’s closest ally. Mexico makes a bid for global supremacy, and a third world war takes place in space. Sounds strange? It could all happen. . .
Asked what they fear most, IEET readers named ‘Theocracy’ as their top choice by a surprisingly wide margin in a recently concluded poll. Coming in second was ‘Totalitarian world government’. In third place was ‘Ecological collapse’ followed closely by ‘Global thermonuclear war’. No other answer was chosen by more than 10% of respondents.
IEET readers appear to be mostly optimistic about our civilization’s chances for survival by the end of the 21st century. In a recent poll, every multiple choice response that was either positive or neutral was selected more often than any of those that were negative.
Barack Obama is in Moscow this week, holding talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and—perhaps more importantly—with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is regarded by many as still holding the crucial keys of power inside that nation’s opaque political structure. In any case, the leaders are discussing, among other things, nuclear disarmament. Between them, Russia and the United States possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. And so, any negotiations that can lower those numbers significantly can only be viewed as positive.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It is 2007 on the steamy tropical streets of Rangoon, Burma, where journalism is against the law, and where no outside reporters are allowed. Fed up with living under the oppression of a heavy-handed military dictatorship, a few courageous citizens dare to speak out. They are quickly silenced and carried off by police and plain-clothes thugs—but a small band of video journalists is able to capture the events and begin leaking the news to the outside world.
This thought experiment is not as far-fetched as it may seem at first glance. Many experts believe that we will be able, not too many decades down the track, to build a device with the capacities that I’ll be describing. My Generation Y philosophy/international studies students may still be young enough to be involved in real-world decisions when this sort of technology is available. Even I may still be alive, to vote on it, if it’s an election issue in 30 or 40 years time. Though it may be at an early stage, the necessary research is going on, even now, in such places as the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
“The convergences of the past, like small streams flowing together to form a great river, have created stronger currents that carry the potential for even faster and more dramatic changes as they converge in the near future. These include information technology, genetic engineering and biotechnology, nanotechnology (the manipulation of matter at the molecular level, which may allow manufacturing without factories as we know them), and cognitive science (how we know and learn).”
“The world will someday end with fire or ice, but we await clarification as to the proximate causes. The menu of looming catastrophes is a long one, growing with our advancing knowledge of the universe and powers of self-immolation.”
A stone age hunter-gatherer, coming upon a conflict where danger was present, didn’t have time to carefully analyze the situation, look for nuances, or seek points of commonality between combatants. Instead, driven by adrenalin, heart pumping, thoughts racing, pupils dilated—within seconds a choice was made: pick a side and join the fray, or turn and run away.