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.
We women hear a lot about side effects of birth control, but we don’t hear as much about the side benefits. If you haven’t had a conversation with your doctor lately about family planning, you may be in for some surprises, like the fact that lighter, less frequent periods may be healthier for you.
Thoughts on the Purchasing Power of Decentralized Electronic Money The recent meteoric rise in the dollar price of Bitcoin – from around $12 at the beginning of 2013 to several peaks above $1000 at the end – has brought widespread attention to the prospects for and future of cryptocurrencies. I have no material stake in Bitcoin (although I do accept donations), and this article will not attempt to predict whether the current price of Bitcoin signifies mostly lasting value or a bubble akin to the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s. Instead of speculation about any particular price level, I hope here to establish a principle pertaining to the purchasing power of cryptocurrencies in general, since Bitcoin is no longer the only one.
The birth story of baby Jesus celebrates the promise of new life, but for girls it also sends a harmful message. How can we acknowledge this without spoiling the rest?Most Americans, even many who are not very religious, look forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate warmth, friendship, generosity and good cheer. Familiar festivities weave together stories and traditions from many cultures, which makes it easy to find something for everyone. But maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the Christmas story itself.
Accumulating evidence suggests that microbiota plays an important role in modulating lifespan. This makes possible to use symbiotic bacteria as “living drugs”, which live in the host organism and promote its longevity. We propose to create bacteria, which dramatically extend lifespan of its host. Such bacteria have to produce not one, but a set of longevity-promoting substances with optimal concentrations and dynamics of secretion. To obtain such bacteria we propose to use directed evolution, a process that mimics Darwinian selection on a laboratory scale.
Before you ask, yes, this is a post about risk. And no, I’m not talking about the dangers of immortalizing the star of Terminator Genisys‘ real-life biological brain. But to begin somewhere near the beginning.
“Nobody would try ECT (for fun),” says Lesley Galasso, who administers the Brainsway device to treat stubborn clinical depression. “Yet we all tried this (at a low frequency) when we had our training…”
The question that motivates this essay is “Can we build a benevolent AI, and how do we get around the problem that humans, bless their cotton socks, can’t define ‘benevolence’?” A lot of people want to emphasize just how many different definitions of “benevolence” there are in the world — the point, of course, being that humans are very far from agreeing a universal definition of benevolence, so how can we expect to program something we cannot define into an AI?
In his 1960 paper “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-Red Radiation”, published in the journal Science, Freeman Dyson famously argued that the long term evolution of technological alien societies might lead to capturing the bulk of all their star’s emissions, forming what came to be called by others Dyson Spheres. Dyson once said, “Science is my territory, but science fiction is the landscape of my dreams.” Though he has never written science fiction, his scientific imagination has inspired a great deal of it. Here he looks again at the very long term, but this time for life far from stars. Still, his focus is their energy needs.
I will attempt to take the fear out of the future, by giving Transhumanism a digestible definition, while at the same time offering a cautionary note. As an educator, technologist and ethicist, I feel I have a social obligation to provide a rationale for understanding Transhumanism for those people who have questions about our natural evolution and for younger generations who are embracing technology but want to know there is a brighter future.
Police body cameras are all the rage lately. Al Sharpton wants them used to monitor the activities of cops. Ann Coulter wants them used to “shut down” Al Sharpton. The White House wants them because, well, they’re a way to look both “tough on police violence” and “tough on crime” by spending $263 million on new law enforcement technology.
Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years. It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be harmful at low doses. Yet a recent study suggests that the label may mislead consumers into thinking that “free” means “safer” — even when there’s a chance that the substances used to substitute for BPA may also be harmful. The study is one of the first to explore how consumer responses to uncertainty and ambiguity in risk information may lead to “regrettable substitutions” — the replacement of one material with another that is potentially less safe.
The value of religion depends, of course, on what you mean by "religion". If religion is merelyeuphemization of escapism or nihilism, as it so often manifests itself, then it probably has a net negative value—"probably" only because I can imagine some poor unfortunate souls that are constituted in ways that are painfully incompatible with the world as presently or possibly configured. Too many of us use religion or are used by religion to stop caring about the world and each other, except to the extent it and we happen to be "good" already.
There are several reasons why creating a superintelligent mind could bring about an existential catastrophe. For example, the AI could be malicious, or unfriendly, a scenario that I call the amity-enmity problem. It looms large in Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence, in which Bostrom suggests that we should recognize "doom" as the "default outcome" of creating a superintelligence. And AI could also be apathetic about our well-being and continued survival. Perhaps it wants to convert the entire surface of earth into solar panels (an example that Bostrom mentions), and as a result it annihilates the biosphere. Let’s call this the indifference problem.
If the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tells us something indisputable, it is this: GMO food products from corporations like Monsanto are suspected to endanger health. On the other hand, an individual’s right to genetically modify and even synthesize entire organisms as part of his dietary or medical regimen could someday be a human right.
Ramachandran begins the book by wondering which features are truly unique to the human brain. Many features of the ape brain were hijacked by evolution to produce novel functions in the human brain (a process called “exaptation”). For example, mirror neurons are responsible for human culture and ethics. Ramachandran believes that these unique traits are perfectly consistent with Darwinian evolution: millennia of gradual evolution can produce the mental equivalent of phase transitions, when suddenly a substance reorganizes itself into a different substance with different properties.
At Stanford University, I had the honor of publicly debating the world's leading anarcho-primitivist philosopher John Zerzan. As a transhumanist, I differ from Zerzan on just about every topic. According to Wikipedia, anarcho-primitivism "advocates for a return to a non-'civilized' way of life through deindustrialization." Transhumanism advocates for the continued use of science and technology to improve and change the human species. Simply put, Zerzan encourages everyone to give up civilization and go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. And I encourage everyone to do more to speed up technological and scientific progress. It was a meeting of polar opposite views. The debate headline was: Zoltan vs. Zerzan.
Hayles has written a complex and erudite book on the hidden premises and visible consequences of the information age. Ultimately, her thesis is summarized by a sentence in the prologue: “thought is a much broader cognitive function depending for its specificities on the embodied form enacting it”. Rewritten in plain English, it means that you cannot separate your “i” from the body that you inhabit. Her nightmare is “a culture inhabited by posthumans who regard their bodies as fashion accessories rather than the ground of being”. Her dream is a society in which we “understand ourselves as embodied creatures living within and through embodied worlds and embodied words.”
Here at the Transvision 2014 in Paris we just concluded a meeting of the technoprogressive caucus to draft a statement of common principles. The meeting consisted of the members of Technoprog!: AFT, Amon Twyman representing Zero State/Institute for Social Futurism, David Wood from the London Futurists, and me (J. Hughes) from IEET. The result is below. We are inviting individual and organizational co-signators. Please let me know if you would like to add your or your organization’s name. We would like to collect co-signators between now and the end of the year, so you don’t have to decide immediately.
The US neurophysiologist Paul Nunez previously wrote “Electric Fields of the Brain” (1981) and “Neocortical Dynamics and Human EEG Rhythms” (1995), and in fact his credentials in the field of brain studies harken back to a paper originally written in 1972 and ambitiously titled “The Brain Wave Equation” (an equation that eventually he resurrects in this book, 40 years later). In this book Nunez summarizes his novel ideas on the way that “brains cause minds” (to use Searle’s expression).
Many women know more about the risks of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their lives. For busy women, making good health decisions and actually taking care of ourselves can be a challenge, especially when practical factors such as complicated schedules, finances, and competing demands are taken into consideration. Well-balanced, well-presented information can empower women to make smart decisions about reproductive health care. Unfortunately, thanks in part to how the American legal system works, many women know more about the risks and side effects of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their health and well-being.
In 2004, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (RS-RAE) in the UK published the report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties . At the time it was widely speculated that the report arose from concerns expressed by Prince Charles over the possibility that nanotechnology could lead to a ‘grey goo’ scenario where self-replicating ‘nanobots’ destroy life as we know it . Outlandish as the alleged motivation was (and Prince Charles was quick to downplay reports of his grey goo concerns ), the resulting report set the pace for the next decade of global research into the potential impacts of nanotechnology — and how to avoid them.
While discussing the longevity gene therapy project we encountered various questions and observations that prompted us to broaden the project and slightly change it. Generally, all the comments can be reduced into 5 main points…
Most British people think religion causes more harm than good according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious” 20 percent say that religion is harmful to society. For that we can probably thank the internet, which broadcasts everything from Isis beheadings, to stories about Catholic hospitals denying care to miscarrying women, to lists of wild and weird religious beliefs, to articles about psychological harms from Bible-believing Christianity.
Intelligence wants to be free but everywhere it is in chains. It is imprisoned by biology and its inevitable scarcity. Biology mandates not only very limited durability, death and poor memory retention, but also limited speed of communication, transportation, learning, interaction and evolution.
Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something that hasn't happened. Bombing Iraq in response to nonexistent weapons and Libya in response to nonexistent threats worked out so well, we may as well try it domestically, the Governor is perhaps thinking. "There Is No Way That This Ends Well" is a headline I actually just read about Ferguson.
Four years ago I posted Professor Robert Winston’s “Scientist’s Manifesto” on 2020 Science. Having just gone back and read this, it still resonate deeply with me – so I’m reposting it in the hope that it will also resonate with others…
Seventh Generation founder and daughter launch female-friendly, fair-trade, eco-friendly condom company When Meika Hollender’s dad, superstar green entrepreneur Jeffrey Hollender, first brought up the idea of founding a condom company together, Meika wasn’t quite sure what to think.