The Boston Globe reported that enrollment in the UMass Boston undergraduate gerontology program has fallen by two-thirds, to a mere 13 students, over the last decade. A relaunch in 2010 failed to yield more students. For that reason, UMass Boston’s decision to suspend the gerontology undergraduate program was a bow to reality.
Historians place the beginning of culture about 10,000 years ago, when our early ancestors abandoned hunter-gathering in favor of settling into communities, cultivating crops, and domesticating live stock.
This is the third part of my series on Nicholas Agar’s bookTruly Human Enhancement. As mentioned previously, Agar stakes out an interesting middle ground on the topic of enhancement. He argues that modest forms of enhancement — i.e. up to or slightly beyond the current range of human norms — are prudentially wise, whereas radical forms of enhancement — i.e. well beyond the current range of human norms — are not. His main support for this is his belief that in radically enhancing ourselves we will lose certain internal goods. These are goods that are intrinsic to some of our current activities.
It’s been 50 years since Isaac Asimov devised his famous Three Laws of Robotics — a set of rules designed to ensure friendly robot behavior. Though intended as a literary device, these laws are heralded by some as a ready-made prescription for avoiding the robopocalypse. We spoke to the experts to find out if Asimov's safeguards have stood the test of time — and they haven't.
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.
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.
Modernity was an age governed by one idea, the existence of a transcendental universal truth attainable trough reason. The laws of motion of Newton embedded in the mind of thinkers of all fields the idea that natural laws exists, which in turn rule over aspects of our world, and uncovering them would be of great benefit to humanity, and for the most part that was the case.
By mid-century or before, many future followers predict the pace of technological progress in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution. By the 2030s, we'll be deluged with medical breakthroughs that promise a forever youthful state of being.
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.
In his new work, How to Create a Mind [HCM], Ray Kurzweil reflects on the moral considerability of intelligent machines. He believes that in the near future we will be confronted with machines that have cognitive abilities and emotive expressions that closely emulate those of humanB beings. (I use the term “HumanB” and its cognates to designate biological humanity and the term “HumanM” and its cognates to designate moral humanity, i.e., persons). The issue for him is whether we humanB beings will be able to identify morally with non-humanB artificial persons that do not have a biological existence.
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.
Are we headed for a Singularity? Is it imminent? I write relatively near-future science fiction that features neural implants, brain-to-brain communication, and uploaded brains. I also teach at a place called Singularity University. So people naturally assume that I believe in the notion of a Singularity and that one is on the horizon, perhaps in my lifetime.
Who is more “luddite”: the individual or the state? In a recent TED talk, an individual – the robot body of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking in Vancouver – said he beat the state. He argued that, while the internet enabled states with unprecedented powers to spy, it has also provided individuals with the ability to singlehandedly “win” against the state by exposing such abuse to the public.
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.
The world is transformed by asking questions, not by providing answers. Politics, religion, and even philosophy, have promised us the answers for millennia. But the value of the answers delivered has always been contextual and temporary. There is no answer that will last forever.
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.
We are only just starting to discover what our upcoming technologies will be capable of, and already, through fear of possible future threats, bombs are being sent to physicists. Emerging technologies are set to revolutionise our world during the next few decades; could this lead to the rise of anti-technology terrorism becoming even more of a threat than radical [religion]?
It’s often frustrating, as a foresight professional, to listen/read what passes for political discourse, especially during a big international crisis (such as the Russia-Ukraine-Crimea situation). Much of the ongoing discussion offers detailed predictions of what one state or another will do and clear assertions of inevitable outcomes, all with an overwhelming certainty of anticipatory analysis. - See more here.
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?
In a time of emerging technologies, while artificial intelligence and adaptability of robots is getting better, a new problem may come up: will machines monopolize all active positions in our society? This fear is already topical and enabled resurgence and modernization of the Luddite thinking.(1)
Today we enjoy basic conversations with our smart phone, desktop PC, games console, TV and soon, our car; but voice recognition, many believe, should not be viewed as an endgame technology. Although directing electronics with voice and gestures may be considered state-of-the-art today, we will soon be controlling entertainment and communications equipment not by talking or waving; but just by thinking!
The Wall-E vision of the future, or what this New Yorker article dubs the “sofalarity”, is not believable to me. It’s a classic mistake of prediction that I like to refer to as “super now.” When making super now predictions, people simply take things that are happening right now and imagine that the future will be just like now only “more extreme.”
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.
We are here because we recognize the frailty of human existence and the vastness of our limitations. We are here because we acknowledge that we live in a harsh world which can draw out the very worst of our already-flawed nature. We are here because we believe, in spite of overwhelming challenges, that something better is possible. We believe the path to a higher state of existence demands devotion and sacrifice.
My daughters and I just finished Carlo Collodi’s 1883 classic Pinocchio our copy beautifully illustrated by Robert Ingpen. I assume most adults when they picture the story have the 1944 Disney movie in mind and associate the name with noses growing from lies and Jiminy Cricket. The Disney movie is dark enough as films for children go, but the book is even darker, with Pinocchio killing his cricket conscience in the first few pages. For our poor little marionette it’s all downhill from there.
The science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov famously proposed three laws for all robots to follow: (1) a robot may not attack a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; (2) a robot must obey the orders given to it by a human being except where such orders would conflict with the first rule; (3) a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first two rules. These “laws,” though they sound just and logical, are utterly impossible to implement if the autonomous robots are to be intelligent and able to reprogram themselves.
After rising from the primordial soup 3.5 billion years ago, Earth life began an evolutionary trip that has produced today’s amazing human. Futurists now ponder what’s next. Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Thomas Frey, Ray Kurzweil, and other forward-thinkers believe technologies will advance exponentially in the centuries ahead, creating sweeping changes in how we view life, our planet, and the cosmos.