Let’s veer from either science fiction or politics into our politically science-fictional new world of light. Starting with a reminder that my new anthology (with Stephen Potts) Chasing Shadows, is released this week by Tor Books, featuring contributions by William Gibson, James Gunn, Neal Stephenson, Vernor Vinge and many others, offering stories and insights into a future when light flows almost everywhere. Prepare yourself! This might be a good start.
It’s that time of the month where we all come together and exchange gifts. Keeping this in mind, DARPA showed some holiday spirit when it provided Walter Reed National Military Medical Center the greatest gift the 21st century can offer: LUKE – the most revolutionary bionic arm available to date!
Le Cybathlon inaugure les premiers “JO de cyborgs”. Une vitrine technologique pour l’aide au handicap, mais aussi la perspectives d’application futures plus larges. C’est par ailleurs une invitation à repenser nos catégories sportives.
Hungry? You can order some pizza and pay for it online. Need to pay your bills? You don’t have to go to the bank or to the billing company to do it. You can either do it online on your desktop or on your smartphone. Need to buy a gift for your nephew whose birthday is this weekend? No need to go out during your lunch break to buy a gift. Just order online and you can have it delivered at your door step.
The nature of what is truly real has been pondered by philosophers for centuries. Plato argued we were only seeing shadows of true reality. Descartes pointed out nothing could be proven by your own thoughts. And while we must assume a shared reality to function with other over the course of daily life, that assumption will come to be questioned in the future with the rise of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies.
How might we define beauty in a future of cyborgs and the genetically enhanced?
Today we live in a world that has been radically transformed by the hands of advanced science and technology. Depending on which sci-fi literature you might’ve read, one could accurately portray today’s reality as a sci-fi future. A future where everyone is interconnected using tiny computational devices which fit in their pockets, biological limbs being replaced by advanced bionic prosthetics, and disease being combated using gene-editing tools.
What will the future look like in the eyes of those one step ahead of us?
I’ve been speaking a lot lately about what I believe the future will be like, as envisioned by robotics company Humai. For a change of pace, I decided to reach out to someone else and get their take on the world of tomorrow.
What follows is a description of experiments using the medium of sound and emerging sound technologies to destabilize conceptions and reposition ourselves to histories of social trauma and to our own sense of self. Can we interrogate these intersections of meaning and data in new ways? Can we dilate emotional immediacy through such reimaginings? Does technology allow and help us to reconsider these approaches?
According to ReWalk Robotics Ltd. via PR Newswire:
“ReWalk Robotics Ltd., the leading global exoskeleton developer and manufacturer, announced today that a commercial health plan in the Northwest region of the United States has approved coverage and reimbursement for a ReWalk Personal exoskeleton system, following the ruling of an external independent review organization that overturned the health plan’s initial denial of coverage.”
The necessity to create various remedies for degenerative age-related diseases is beyond any doubts. But this process is somewhat like a Sisyphean task, because the aging of each person only deepens over time, persistently destroying the results of treatment. Pharma is forced to deal with the countless consequences, rather than with their cause. The primary cause of aging is still deeply buried in gerontological terra incognita. Meanwhile, a growing and imminent new threat for humankind is becoming increasingly apparent. This threat is the increasing aging of the human population as a whole.
As someone with bipolar affective disorder, I’m constantly at a loss as to the gulf that separates between the technoprogressive vision that I aspire to and the severe depression that has a life-long history of suicide attempts, from my teens all the way up until my current mid-forties. It should be apparent that I’m not very skilled at it.
From the days of the Acheulean hand-axe on, humans have always had a symbiotic relationship with technology. How far will that relationship go? One haunting vision of the future is provided by the Borg — one of the main villains of the Star Trek universe.
Last week’s historic summit on human gene-editing has come to a close, and its organizing committee has given the go-ahead for scientists in the US to experiment on human genes — only if it doesn’t result in a pregnancy. It’s a surprisingly progressive stance. But make no mistake, human trait selection is coming. Here’s why we’ll eventually accept the prospect of genetically modified “designer babies.”
Currently, automation is often seen as very negative, because it eliminates jobs. When jobs become much less of a necessity, due to their income generating function being taken over by a SUPI, the negative sentiments against automation will decrease – and may even turn into demands for faster automation. Social and political resistance against automation will disappear. Therefore, the speed of innovation can increase, which should give the economy a big boost.
In most of the western world we have a prevailing societal model of self-reliance and personal responsibility. It’s easy to see the limitations of this model – people get old and sick, most people have emotional or other vulnerabilities and significant periods in our life we are just unable to protect ourselves.
In the United Kingdom, ongoing social and political controversy over voluntary euthanasia, or (physician) assisted suicide, has reached a new stage. Labour MP Rob Marris has put forward a private member’s bill, and it will be debated in the House of Commons this month. Thus, the UK now becomes a focus of attention for those of us with an interest in the issue of assisted suicide.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.” Subsequently, 90% of those visually impaired live in low-income settings. What this entails is a two-fold problem in need of serious addressing. Not only a way to help the visually impaired to see, but equally a means of which is affordable to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
At almost any minute of any day, your life could change drastically. Our bodies are fragile, our destinies determined second-by-second. Snap your fingers. That’s how suddenly what you have come to expect for yourself, or a member of your family, could change as the result of an illness or accident. What would it mean in terms of work, mobility, relationship, identity? How quickly or slowly would you adapt to a drastically new state of reality?
Four persons suspected of murdering an ‘albino’ have reportedly been arrested in Malawi. They allegedly abducted an ‘albino’ man from his village, killed him, removed his body parts and buried them in a riverbed. These horrific murders which have been taking place mainly in Tanzania seem to be spreading to this Southern African country, and it is important to rally Malawians against this horrendous practice before it is too late.
Over the past several years the Jewish custom of male circumcision, in which the foreskin of the penis is removed, has been increasingly compared to female circumcision, in which the clitoris and sometimes the labia are removed, and condemned as genital mutilation. This comparison demonstrates an abysmal ignorance of anatomy. The clitoris is analogous to the penis and the labia to the scrotum which are certainly not removed in male circumcision. The foreskin is comparable to the clitoral hood which is sometimes removed surgically in women in order to enhance sexual pleasure.
If you are one of those who think there is no connection between politics and the savage practice of albino killing in Tanzania, then you need to read the recent statement from the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Pereira Silima. Silima made it clear to politicians in the country that if they stopped patronizing the ‘witch doctors’ then this East African country might see an end to the shameful and horrific murders of albinos.
The people in Tanzania need to discard the belief that drives them to attack kidnap and kill people living with albinism.
Recently, I tuned in to watch a 60 Minutes television story on a experimental cancer treatment being tested that was being hailed as near miraculous. As I saw the face of one white patient after another white patient who was cured by injecting the polio virus into a brain tumor, I started to wonder: where are all the black people? Or Hispanics or Asians? It brought to mind the popular campaign and twitter hashtag, Black Lives Matter
As the measles outbreak grows, 173 cases since March 6th, most cases have been traced from the unvaccinated child in Disneyland, with additional outlier cases and it has become our latest national fascination with a bioethics issue.
When Reuters announced the successful deployment of the first Internet-enabled pacemaker in the United States, it was a dream come true for many. The news came late in the summer of 2009, three weeks after Carol Kasyjanski became the first American recipient of a wireless pacemaker that allowed her doctor to monitor her health from afar. Since then there has been a proliferation of Internet-connected personal medical devices, or iPMDs, which now include insulin pumps, glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, walking canes, and of course, the ubiquitous fitness wearables.
Recently a group of scientists and an industry group have issued statements calling for a moratorium on human heritable or germline genetic modifications (see here, here and here), now that we have the powerful CRISPR technique to pursue them. These statements have been greeted rapturously by bioconservatives, who want to see a global ban on germline and enhancement genetic therapies. Of course, transhumanists have been thinking about these things for a long time, and the World Transhumanist Association (now known as Humanity+) adopted a formal position on human germline genetic modification ten years ago.
Unwanted pregnancy is contributing to a new “caste system” in America. Is that about to get worse? When new and better technologies become available only to people who are already privileged, the rich get richer and opportunity gaps get wider. That’s exactly what’s happening with family planning—and unless trends change, a recent revolution in contraceptive technology may deepen America’s economic divide. Many factors intersect to create poverty or keep people mired there: racism, sexism, untreated illness and mental illness, hopelessness created by lack of opportunity, structural barriers between social classes, and more.