Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Futurism

The Global Brain and the Future Information Society
June 3-7
Vienna, Austria


Wallach, Bostrom on “Technological Unemployment and the Future of Work”
June 3
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Confronting the Anthropocene
June 27
Boston, MA USA


Ramez Naam on “Enhancing Humans, Advancing Humanity”
July 22
San Francisco, CA USA


Anticipation
November 5-7
Trento, Italy




MULTIMEDIA: Futurism Topics

Science Fiction is Really Important But Not Because It’s Right

Radical Change Lies Ahead

What happens when our computers get smarter than we are?

TranshumaNietzsche

Future Day Online

Terminator or Transcendence?

Future Day 2015 with Ben Goertzel

Substrate Autonomous, Networked Avatar Bodies by Design

What is the Future of Suffering?

Review the Future: What is Technoprogressivism?

Why we should give everyone a basic income

Compressing Time with Brain To Computer Interfaces

John Danaher on “Will the Future be Ruled by Algorithm?”

The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, Interstellar Transport Bandwidth (22min)

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence




Subscribe to IEET Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List









Futurism Topics




We Should Mine the Asteroids Now, but Not The Moon

by David Brin

Planetary Resources, founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson, aims to pave the way to humanity mining asteroids for vast wealth… as the B612 Foundation hopes to detect and track asteroids that threaten civilization’s survival… a real case of synergy of purpose. (I’ve been helping both.)

Full Story...



We May be Systematically Underestimating the Probability of Annihilation

by Phil Torres

This article examines the risks posed by “unknown unknowns,” which I call monsters. It then introduces a taxonomy of the unknowable, and argues that one category of this taxonomy in particular should lead us to inflate our prior probability estimates of annihilation, whatever they happen to be. The lesson here is ultimately the same as the Doomsday Argument, except the reasoning is far more robust.

Full Story...



Aristotle, Robot Slaves, and a New Economic System

by John G. Messerly

Jaron Lanier’s book “Who Owns the Future?” discusses the role that technology plays in both eliminating jobs and increasing income inequality. Early in the book Lanier quotes from Aristotle’s Politics:

If every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, “of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods; ”if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.

Aristotle saw that the human condition largely depends on what machines can and cannot do; moreover, we can imagine that machines will do much more.

Full Story...



Neural Data Privacy Rights - An Issue We *Should* Be Worried About

by Melanie Swan

A worry that is not yet on the scientific or cultural agenda is neural data privacy rights. Not even biometric data privacy rights are in purview yet which is surprising given the personal data streams that are amassing from quantified self-tracking activities. There are several reasons why neural data privacy rights could become an important concern.

Full Story...



The “Reputation Web” Will Generate Countless Opportunities

by Lincoln Cannon

Technological change is accelerating and transforming our world. Assuming trends persist, we will soon experience an evolutionary shift in the mechanisms of reputation, a fundamental on which relationships are based. Cascading effects of the shift will revolutionize the way we relate with each other and our machines, incentivizing unprecedented degrees of global cooperation.

In 2015, you probably have more computing power than that of the Apollo Guidance computer in your smartphone, and yet Moore’s Law continues unabated at its fiftieth anniversary. Machines are becoming faster and smaller and smarter.

Full Story...



The Scientific Method is a Scientific Idea that is Ready for Retirement

by Melanie Swan

The scientific idea that is most ready for retirement is the scientific method itself. More precisely it is the idea that there would be only one scientific method, one exclusive way of obtaining scientific results. The problem is that the traditional scientific method as an exclusive approach is not adequate to the new situations of contemporary science like big data, crowdsourcing, and synthetic biology.

Full Story...



Democratic Socialism - is it Ideal for Transhumanism?

by Hank Pellissier

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, is campaigning to be the next USA President.  He defines himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and praises Scandinavian nations. USA citizenry is largely puzzled and aghast:

“The only thing most American know about socialism is they don’t like it.” - Leo Huberman

In a survey of transhumanists, 16.9% described themselves as Socialist, 4.2% Marxist, 32.7% Liberal, 27.4 Libertarian, and 15.6 Moderate. The Transhumanist Party is running a candidate in 2016 - Zoltan Istvan. I’ll be posting a series of articles on transhumanist political positions.

In this first installment, I interview four contributors to IEET.

Full Story...



We Should Consider The Future World As One Of Multi-Species Intelligence

by Melanie Swan

Considering machines that think is a nice step forward in the AI debate as it departs from our own human-based concerns, and accords machines otherness in a productive way. It causes us to consider the other entity’s frame of reference. However, even more importantly this questioning suggests a large future possibility space for intelligence.

Full Story...



The Culture of Transhumanism Is About Self-Improvement

by Zoltan Istvan

Over the last few years, I’ve received various reactions from the public about my articles on transhumanism. Those reactions have ranged all across the board—from spewing hatred to mocking skepticism to genuine interest. The thing with transhumanism—the core of its message—is whatever it espouses, it’s new thinking. Whether it’s brain implants,  bionic limbs, designer babies, robotic hearts, exoskeleton suits, artificial intelligence, or gene therapies that aim to eliminate biological death, it’s decidedly uncharted territory for the human species.

Full Story...



Review of “Moral Status of Cloning Humans” by Michael Tooley

by John G. Messerly

Michael Tooley’s article “Moral Status of Cloning Humans” defends human cloning. I am in complete agreement with it. Cloning, despite the viceral reaction it raises, is a tool in the arsenal of the transhumanist once it is understood.

Here is a brief outline of the article with a bit of commentary identified by parenthesis.

Full Story...



Auguries of Immortality, Malthus and the Verge

by Rick Searle

Sometimes, if you want to see something in the present clearly it’s best to go back to its origins. This is especially true when dealing with some monumental historical change, a phase transition from one stage to the next. The reason I think this is helpful is that those lucky enough to live at the beginning of such events have no historical or cultural baggage to obscure their forward view. When you live in the middle, or at the end of an era, you find yourself surrounded, sometimes suffocated, by all the good and bad that has come as a result. As a consequence, understanding the true contours of your surroundings or ultimate destination is almost impossible, your nose is stuck to the glass.

Question is, are we ourselves in the beginning of such an era, in the middle, or at an end? How would we even know?

Full Story...



UnSingularity - Let’s Enjoy the Slow Hike to the Future

by Giulio Prisco

As a child of the 60s I spent most of my life regretting that we didn’t build those cities on the Moon and the planets. Now I realize that the Apollo adventure was too far from our supply lines to be sustainable. But we are still doing space, and someday (not soon) we will go back to the Moon, and then to Mars, to the planets, and to the stars.

Full Story...



Are AI-Doomsayers like Skeptical Theists? A Precis of the Argument

by John Danaher

Some of you may have noticed my recently-published paper on existential risk and artificial intelligence. The paper offers a somewhat critical perspective on the recent trend for AI-doomsaying among people like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. Of course, it doesn’t focus on their opinions; rather, it focuses on the work of the philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has written the most impressive analysis to date of the potential risks posed by superintelligent machines.

Full Story...



9 Bizarre Jobs That Will Redefine Our Lives In The 2050s

by George Dvorsky

The fields of biotechnology and medicine are rapidly evolving, and with them their associated employment opportunities. Here are nine biomedical professions to look for in the coming decades.

Full Story...



IEET Readers Lean Toward Possibly Purposeful Universe

We asked “Does the universe have a purpose?” and of the 120 of you that answered only a quarter said unequivocally “yes.” A third were unequivocally in the “No” purpose camp. But a third held out for purpose being possible, either as a result of our being in a simulation or as something we begin to understand as we become superintelligent.

Full Story...



Is novelty in nanomaterials overrated when it comes to risk?

by Andrew Maynard

Novelty and nanotechnology are deeply intertwined. The search for nanostructure-enabled materials has driven research funding in nanotechnology for well over a decade now; the exploitation of novel properties has underpinned the commercialization of nanomaterials; and concerns over potential risks has stimulated widespread studies into what makes these materials harmful. Yet ‘novelty’ is an ephemeral quality, and despite its close association with nanotechnology, it may be an unreliable guide to ensuring the long-term safety of materials that emerge from the field. If this is the case, do we need to find alternative approaches to developing advanced materials and products that are safe by design?



The Sofalarity is Near

by Rick Searle

Many readers here have no doubt spent at least some time thinking about the Singularity, whether in a spirit of hope or fear, or perhaps more reasonably some admixture of both. For my part, though, I am much less worried about a coming Singularity than I am about a Sofalarity in which our ability to create realistic illusions of achievement and adventure convinces the majority of humans that reality isn’t really worth all the trouble after all. Let me run through the evidence of an approaching Sofalarity. I hope you’re sitting down… well… actually I hope you’re not.



Calum Chace on Pandora’s Brain: AI is Coming and It Could Be the Best or the Worst Thing

by Nikola Danaylov

Pandora’s Brain is one of the most philosophical science fiction novels I have read recently. And since Calum Chace has been a valuable contributor to Singularity Weblog, as well as a great blogger with an interesting and diverse experience in his own right, I thought that he would make a great guest for my Singularity 1on1 podcast. And so I invited him for an interview which turned out to be a very enjoyable conversation indeed.



Posthumanisms: A Carnapian Experiment

by Daryl Wennemann

In his article, “What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?”, Kevin LaGrandeur sets out to clarify the meaning of the terms “posthuman”, “transhuman” and “posthumanism”. (http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/lagrandeur20141226) He notes that the relative newness of the terminology is a source of confusion among many who employ these terms.



Blockchain Thinkers and Smart Contracts to take over the World?

by Melanie Swan

Automatically-executing smart contracts and their impact on society has been contemplated in many different contemporary science fiction works like Daemon (Suarez), and Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross). The interesting point is that artificial autonomous agents are becoming increasingly full-fledged participants in the real-life contemporary world.



Human Life and the Quest for Immortality

by John Danaher

Human beings have long desired immortality. In his book on the topic, cleverly-titled Immortality, Stephen Cave argues that this desire has taken on four distinct forms over the course of human history. In the first, people seek immortality by simply trying to stay alive, either through the help of magic or science. In the second, people seek resurrection, sometimes in the same physical form and sometimes in an altered plane of existence.



The Moral Philosophy of Transhumanism

by Amon Twyman

Transhumanism is an increasingly popular philosophical movement, and that increasing popularity can sometimes lead to a degree of confusion among newer adherents about what its necessary features are. In my opinion the only common basis to Transhumanism, coined by Anders Sandberg as the “Central Meme of Transhumanism” (CMT) is as follows: That the human condition can and should be improved by technology.



Our Final Hour

by John G. Messerly

From Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning by Martin Rees, Royal Society Professor at Cambridge and England’s Royal Astronomer. “Twenty-first century science may alter human beings themselves - not just how they live.” (9) Rees accepts the common wisdom that the next hundred years will see changes that dwarf those of the past thousand years, but he is skeptical about specific predictions. 



Big Data as statistical masturbation

by Rick Searle

It’s just possible that there is a looming crisis in yet another technological sector whose proponents have leaped too far ahead, and too soon, promising all kinds of things they are unable to deliver. It strange how we keep ramming our head into this same damned wall, but this next crisis is perhaps more important than deflated hype at other times, say our over optimism about the timeline for human space flight in the 1970’s, or the “AI winter” in the 1980’s, or the miracles that seemed just at our fingertips when we cracked the Human Genome while pulling riches out of the air during the dotcom boom- both of which brought us to a state of mania in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.



Religion in the Time of Superintelligence

by Giulio Prisco

The Gizmodo article “When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It?” by my good friend Zoltan Istvan has gone viral and created a wave of articles about religion in the time of superintelligence.



You Am Us

by Giulio Prisco

We all, as individuals and members of societies, dedicate a lot of effort to finding ways to cope with the idea of death. Most believers in traditional Western religions imagine resurrection in an afterlife, where they will be forever reunited with loved ones. Most believers in traditional Eastern religions and spiritual traditions think that, while an otherworldly realm beyond physical reality may eventually be attained, most people go through a long string of lives here on Earth (reincarnation).



Transhumanism Needs to Establish a Meaning to Life

by Nikola Danaylov

It is important that the transhumanist movement establish a consensus on the meaning of life. Failure to do so will result in conflict, the extent of which is difficult to predict. As it stands today, transhumanism is a divided movement of various competing interests promoting values which are contradictory in nature. It seems the only agreement the movement has reached thus far is that the proper course of action is to promote the widespread adaptation of transhumanism.



Time to Start Looking At ‘Cyborg’ As a Gender Identity

by B. J. Murphy

I am a Cyborg. No, I don’t have any technological enhancements just yet, though I plan on doing so very soon with help from my friends within the DIY grinder community. Even then, my “choosing” to identify myself as a cyborg is more than a mere desire for cyborg enhancements, but is an identity that I feel deeply within myself – a longing to express myself in ways that my current biological body cannot.



The End of Religion Misrecognized

by Lincoln Cannon

So much anti-religious dogmatism, so much misrecognized religiosity, so little time. It's a wonder to me that some clearly sophisticated persons can express such unsophisticated opinions about religion. Maybe it's just because we all have vested interests? On the one hand, those who have distanced themselves from tradition seek to justify their choice, as those who have continued to embrace tradition likewise would justify themselves. What's to be made of the strange creatures, arguably not so uncommon now or ever, that reject any notion of the choice being all or nothing or even mutually exclusive?



Problems with Defining an Existential Risk

by Phil Torres

What is an existential risk? The general concept has been around for decades, but the term was coined by Nick Bostrom in his seminal 2002 paper, here. Like so many empirical concepts – from organism to gene to law of nature, all of which are still debated by philosophically-minded scientists and scientifically-minded philosophers – the notion of an existential risk turns out to be more difficult to define than one might at first think.

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