Dan Barker, echoing an idea expressed by many atheists, describes theology as “a subject without an object.” Since there’s little reason for thinking a God exists – much less the God of the Bible – the entire field is ultimately vacuous, despite the grandiloquent rigamarole of, as Jerry Coyne puts it, Sophisticated Theologians(TM). Theology studies nothing. Its heart and soul is a phenomenon that almost certainly doesn’t exist.
Within the Anglo-American, and then specifically American political discourse, the dominant paradigm for around two generations right now is that the main guarantor of liberty (defined as the absence of physical force) is the institution of private property, and the main threat against private property and thence liberty is the state. While the purest expression of these sentiments reside amongst Market Libertarian elements, these thoughts have come to dominate a lot of the thinking within political economics in the west, and thence in the world.
Among transhumanists, Nick Bostrom is well-known for promoting the idea of ‘existential risks’, potential harms which, were they come to pass, would annihilate the human condition altogether. Their probability may be relatively small, but the expected magnitude of their effects are so great, so Bostrom claims, that it is rational to devote some significant resources to safeguarding against them. (Indeed, there are now institutes for the study of existential risks on both sides of the Atlantic.) Moreover, because existential risks are intimately tied to the advancement of science and technology, their probability is likely to grow in the coming years.
Imagine that someone hated you (or your company) and wanted to make you look bad. So, he pretended to be a friend or colleague, went to your events, repeatedly asked you to meetings or lunch, gained your trust, and then spent two years recording private conversations. Could he find stuff that would make you sound like a heartless monster? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s no way it would take years.
Biohacking and transhumanist advances (including nootropics, extended longevity, cybernetic implants, better behavioral and genetic self-understanding) will materially advance our quality of life and productivity in the coming decade, but we need to be thoughtful about the potential social and ethical pitfalls as we transform. Google Trends shows a marked uptick in searches for “nootropics” and related biohacking fields, so now is the time to have the conversation about the direction we’re headed.
About a year from today, Americans will line up at the polls to vote for the 45th President of the United States. Whether Zoltan Istvan will represent the Transhumanist Party on that ballot remains to be seen, but it seems likely that he’ll be the first Transhumanist candidate to run for office.
Fringe political parties are not new, though ‘Transhumanist’ does have a novel ring to it. In a recent TechEmergence interview, I asked Zoltan, why is this the time, the 2016 election, for the Transhumanist party to make an entrance?
What would you say if I told you that aging happens not because of accumulation of stresses, but rather because of the intrinsic properties of the gene network of the organism? I’m guessing you’d be like: o_0.
So, here’s the deal. My biohacker friends led by Peter Fedichev and Sergey Filonov in collaboration with my old friend and the longevity record holder Robert Shmookler Reis published a very cool paper.
“For the modern mad men and wolves of Wall Street, gone are the days of widespread day drinking and functional cocaine use. Instead, in this age of efficiency above all else, corporate climbers sometimes seek a simple brain boost, something to help them to get the job done without manic jitters or a nasty crash.
For that, they are turning to nootropics,” writes Jack Smith IV on the cover story for an April 2015 edition of the New York Observer.
If you are one of the millions who have been suffering from glaucoma, then smoking marijuana can help you get the best eyesight and relieve pressure from they eyes. Intraocular pressure can increase in certain individuals, especially those who have diabetes. Glaucoma is serious disease that can cause blindness.
A vomit bucket sat on the old wooden floor in front of me, a roll of toilet tissue to my right, and when the shaman sung that low sinister note of the first icaro I puked until I naively thought that I could puke no more only to immediately puke again in some kind of volcanic eruption.
In return I was greeted by the indistinguishable sounds of whatever surrounded our jungle hut that dark night deep in the Amazon jungle. I thought that I was in a dream—except that this was no dream that I’ve ever had nor will ever want to have again.
1. Wealth Gap: The playing field is not level. The median wealth of a white household in the United States is over 13 times that of a black household, and the gap is widening. Most black households have less than $350 in savings. It takes money not just to make money but to get a start, to live near good schools, to live free of lead paint poisoning, or to address the special needs that every person has.
Nootropics, more colloquially known as “smart drugs,” are in the zeitgeist. Hollywood productions like Limitless and Lucy to a CNN profile of a tech millionaire - Dave Asprey - spending $300,000 to hack his own body with research chemicals have certainly raised the profile of nootropics in the mainstream.
President Muhammad Buhari has stated during his recent visit to the US that his government would not consider decriminalizing gay marriage in Nigeria. Well, that did not come to me as a surprise because President Buhari is a hardline conservative muslim whom I think would be unwilling to support any legislative or policy change that is not compatible with sharia law.
A lot has been said about militant Islam and extreme Christian, traditional religious practices in Nigeria. There has been much focus on violent attacks by the jihadist group, Boko Haram, on the abuses perpetrated by sharia policing agencies and the nefarious activities of homophobic pentecostal churches and witch hunting pastors in the country. Unfortunately not much attention has been paid to the efforts of humanists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics in the country to address these problems. Not many Nigerians know about the campaigns by humanists against witch hunting, blasphemy law and harmful traditional practices. In fact not many Nigerians know that humanists and humanist groups exist in the country.
A year ago, I was traveling across the world. I had just moved out of my house, taken a leave of absence from my part-time job, and left without a lot of money or a good sense of whether I would be employed when I got back.
I slept on hard floors, in hostels, on couches, and in rooms that were built on rooftops. I went without warm showers for a long time. I hiked up into the mountains of Nepal, witnessed the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution firsthand, and tried to figure out what to do when a street fight broke out around me in Moscow.
The following is a thought experiment: an attempt to understand the Iranian deal by way of logical speculation regarding the issues and facts as perceived by the Obama administration.
I am assuming that Obama is not a Marxist/Islamist/Kenyan, consumed by post-colonial resentment and dedicated to destroying the Constitution and the United States. Nor a Black Nationalist anti-Semite, whose most important priority regarding Iran is to screw Israel. I am assuming he is a patriotic American who desires to be a historically great President.
This restructuring of how to view science is geared not just at defending science from charges of reactionism from leftists, but at more broadly clarifying how we might view that much looser bundle invoked by the word “science” as a political force. Because the array of things popularly associated with “science” is so wildly varying and hazy most of the political claims surrounding science that don’t slice it away to near irrelevance or neutrality as a formulaic procedure have sought to identify underlying ideological commitments and then define “science” in terms of them.
The fact of the matter is that the remarkably successful phenomenon that the term “Science!” has wrapped itself around is not so much a methodology as an orientation. What was really going on, what is still going on in science that has given it so many great insights is the radicalism of scientists, that is to say their vigilant pursuit after the roots (or ‘radis’). Radicals constantly push our perspectives into extreme or alien contexts until they break or become littered with unwieldy complications, and when such occurs we are happy to shed off the historical baggage entirely and start anew. To not just add caveats upon caveats to an existing model but to sometimes prune them away or throw it all out entirely. Ours is the search for patterns and symmetries that might reflect more universal dynamics rather than merely good rules of thumb within a specific limited context. As any radical knows “good enough” is never actually enough.
It’s no secret that a good portion of the left today considers science profoundly uncool. A slight affinity with it persists among a majority, but few asides of scorn by the continental philosophers influential in the contemporary leftist canon see spirited response and science’s most prominent champions remain dated historical figures like Peter Kropotkin and Élisée Reclus. Indeed there’s a lingering whiff of technocratic stodginess and death that the word “science” has never quite shaken. Those leftists most associated with it have a tendency to either be authoritarians looking to legitimize near-fascist narratives, or doe-eyed activists enchanted by saccharine visions of self-managed bureaucracies and The Meeting That Never Ends. To a great many who identify as radicals “science” appears in our lives primarily as a place our various enemies habitually retreat to conjure the authority their shoddy arguments couldn’t.
Have you ever been in an online community where you trying to discuss information that you are deeply invested in and then someone, seemingly out of nowhere, begins to deliberately sow discord among the group? The intentional introduction of inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic posts with the deliberate intent of disrupting regular on-topic group discussion –commonly known as Internet trolling – has become a favorite pastime of many Christians in the world today. Unfortunately, many folks haven’t yet learned that one cannot serve both God and Internet trolling.
Today there are high hopes for technological progress. Techno-optimists expect massive benefits for humankind from the invention of new technologies. Peter Diamandis is the founder of the X-prize foundation whose purpose is to arrange competitions for breakthrough inventions. His aim is “a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting, ubiquitous energy”.
That’s the highly cited estimate out of Oxford by Frey and Osbourne of the percentage of existing jobs that are likely to be automated away with the help of technology within the next two decades. According to this paper, flip a coin and call heads or machines to see if your job will exist in 20 years. This is the 21st century fear for many called “technological unemployment.”
There is something important going on in the fight against baldness.
As in the majority of tissues, the hair follicle has stem cells. There are two types of stem cells that are responsible for the continuous renewal of the follicles. The first type is called active stem cells and they start dividing quite easily. Stem cells of the second type are called quiescent and in case of the new hair growth they don’t start dividing as easily. At the same time, the new hair is based primarily on quiescent cells, which attracted close attention of researchers to these cells. At first people thought that baldness was due to this type of cells.
What do conservative politicians want even more than balanced budgets or an end to abortion?
When Republicans in Colorado pulled the plug on America’s most successful teen pregnancy prevention program, they told the world something about themselves and their political kin: Conservatives may talk about ending abortion or balancing state budgets, but there’s something they want more. This point has been underscored by the latest spliced-video smear campaign against Planned Parenthood that, if successful, will defund every service Planned Parenthood provides except abortion.
With the launch of Sputnik in 1957, humankind extended its presence from the Earth’s surface towards outer space. Since that time, thousands of other objects have been sent into Earth orbit, including weather satellites, communications equipment and military hardware. Wherever people go, they tend to leave their mark, mostly harmful, on the natural environment, and space is no exception. There are many pieces of space junk – the remains of discarded, malfunctioning or obsolete devices – that now whiz around the earth and pose threats to current space projects.
The Anti-Christ, the Mark of the Beast, and 666 all refer to a point in time when Christians will supposedly ascend to heaven and those left behind will be tortured by the “Beast.” What is this Beast they fear?
Many Christians define whatever their brain cannot comprehend as a likely “Mark of the Beast.” That is why microchip implants, radical life extension, and transhumanism itself, are often viewed by Christians as the Mark of the Beast. Some Christians also believe the beast will be a cyborg, half human and half robot. Some say Dmitry Itskov’s 2045
Immortality project will lead to the Mark of the Beast.
These fears are unjustified. I believe Christians should embrace Transhumanism.
I recently had the privilege of being the opening keynote speaker at the Financial TimesCamp Alphaville 2015 conference in London. Attending were nearly 1000 people, including economists, engineers, scientists, and financiers. Amongst robots mingling with guests, panels discussing Greece’s future, and Andrew Fastow describing the fall of Enron in his closing speech, event participants were given a dynamic picture of the ever changing business landscape and its effect on our lives.
This is a letter to the late Christopher Hitchens, disputing his take on the historical role of the concept (not the reality) of monotheism as being utterly evil. It posits that monotheism played a vital role in the development of science, constitutionalism and social justice – that Occam’s Razor (vital to the development of both science and constitutionalism) is historically dependent on theological disputes ‘proving’ the existence of one god.
In June, the Vatican released Pope Francis’s much anticipated encyclical letter Laudato Si on the environment and humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The encyclical is worth exploring for those interested in global catastrophic and existential risks (GCE-risks) because the particular environmental problems the Pope discusses are placed in the general context of the many GCE-risks that humanity faces.