What Happened When Liberia Tested a Pilot Program of Cash Transfers to the Extreme Poor in Bomi? by Scott Santens
Further evidence of the potential of basic income
I’m always on the lookout for more scientific evidence of what happens when people are provided cash incomes unconditionally. Recently I found something new, a pilot program tested in Bomi and Maryland Counties in Liberia that started in 2009 and ended in late 2014.
Implemented by the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development with support from UNICEF and funded by the EU and Japan, it was called the “Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCT)” and was aimed at the “ultra-poor” - the poorest of the poor.
Hindu Fundamentalism - is it going down the way of Islam? by piero scaruffi
One of the most important books ever published on Hinduism, Wendy Doniger’s 683-page “The Hindus - An Alternative History” (2010), still cannot be found in India.
The ultra-nationalist political agitator Dinanath Batra sued its publisher and the publisher withdrew the book from the Indian market. The lawsuit was based on a law (Hate Law Speech Section #295A, enacted in 1927 by the British under pressure from the Muslim community) that de facto allows courts to punish religious blasphemy.
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.
Hate Speech Hurts - Should It Be Banned? by Aaron Moritz
Sticks and stones can break my bones
, but words can never hurt me
The Nursery Rhyme is Bulls**t. Words hurt.
They don’t physically damage our bodies, but the pain is palpable. It’s also measurable in our brain activity. Social rejection activates the same parts of our brain as a punch to the face or a broken arm.
India: little real progress for most people during the 20-year economic boom by piero scaruffi
First of all, someone needs to demystify the idea that Westerners have of India. There are two modern empires in Asia: Russia and mainland China. They are empires because they rule over subjects who, given a choice, would probably not want to be part of them and these are big chunks of territory with huge natural resources (Chechnya and other Muslim regions in the case of Russia, Tibet and Xinjang in the case of China). India is never listed alongside them because it used to be a colony. Somehow the colonial past deters people from seeing what is relatively obvious: India too is an empire just like China and Russia that rules over many “conquered” regions that, given a choice, would probably secede.
From Children of ‘Witches’ to ‘Child Witches’ in Ghana by Leo Igwe
Children are among those who populate the witch camps in the Northern Ghana. These children are not at the sanctuary because they were accused of witchcraft. They are at these shelters because their mothers or grand mothers were accused. But from my observations, many of these children end up suffering as a result the label of witchcraft applied to their mothers or grand mothers. The belief in child witches exist among the Dagomba and other ethnic communities in the Northern region. But it takes a different dimension.
If We No Longer Force People to Work to Meet Their Basic Needs, Won’t They Stop Working? by Scott Santens
What underlies a question like this is that it’s okay to force people to work by withholding what they need to live, in order to force them to work for us. And at the same time, because they are forced, we don’t even pay them enough to meet their basic needs that we are withholding to force them to work.
What is a good word to describe this?
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.
Does the Biblical God Exist? - I Think We Can Do Better by Valerie Tarico
On May 20 I participated in a four person debate about the existence of God at Western Washington University. On the ‘yes’ side were Mike Raschko and Mark Markuly from the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. On the ‘no’ side were Bob Seidensticker and me. Here are my remarks:
Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck by Scott Santens
Late last year, I took a road trip with my partner from our home in New Orleans, Louisiana to Orlando, Florida and as we drove by town after town, we got to talking about the potential effects self-driving vehicle technology would have not only on truckers themselves, but on all the local economies dependent on trucker salaries. Once one starts wondering about this kind of one-two punch to America’s gut, one sees the prospects aren’t pretty.
The Semi-Orthogonality Thesis - examining Nick Bostrom’s ideas on intelligent purpose by Lincoln Cannon
In his Orthogonality Thesis, Nick Bostrom proposes that “intelligence and final goals are orthogonal: more or less any level of intelligence could in principle be combined with more or less any final goal.”
However, there’s a problem hinted at by the combination of “orthogonality” and “more or less”. Nick acknowledges that intelligent purpose actually does have some constraints. And arguably those constraints are actually quite strong, which would mean the Orthogonality Thesis is rather weak.
But the weakness may not be fatal. We can formulate a Semi-Orthogonality Thesis that actually accounts better for Nick’s own observations and reasoning without overstating their ramifications, which remain momentous.
Understanding Witchcraft and Witch Sanctuaries in Northern Ghana by Leo Igwe
Witch sanctuaries, described by local NGOs as ‘witch camps’, form part of the infrastructure of witchcraft in Northern Ghana. These sanctuaries are shrines, though one of sanctuaries in Gushiegu is not attached to any shrine. Tindana are the heads of the sanctuaries. The Dagbani term, Tindana, literally means - the one who owns the land. They are responsible for consulting the Tindang, the community spirit or god whenever there is a problem like drought or epidemic, war, plague, accusations of death or illness witchcraft, etc
How Old Are You Now? - What’s Your Biological Age? by David Kekich
Uh uh. Not so fast.
If your first impulse was to tell me how many years it has been since you were born, stop right there. There could be a huge difference between your chronological age and your biological age.
Let me explain.
Your chronological age measures how long you have been on this planet. Your biological age measures how you look, feel and perform—and is a gauge as to how long you will live. Recent studies have shown that the rate at which you age is only determined 25–35% by your genetics. The rest is up to you.
Why I am pro-Abortion, not Just Pro-Choice by Valerie Tarico
Recently, the Daily Kos published an article titled, I Am Pro-Choice, Not Pro-Abortion. “Has anyone ever truly been pro-abortion?” one commenter asked.
Uh. Yes. Me. That would be me.
I am pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-cataract surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing when all else fails, abortion is part of a set of tools that help women and men to form the families of their choosing. I believe that abortion care is a positive social good. And I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing. And I think it’s time we said so.
Ketosis Makes Your Brain Work Better, That’s Why Dave Asprey Puts Butter in his Coffee by Aaron Moritz
Every morning for the last four and a half months, I’ve broken off a large chunk of grass fed butter (usually around 50 grams or just over three tablespoons) and a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and thrown them in a blender with my morning coffee. You might have heard of this idea, dubbed ‘bulletproof coffee’ and created by a guy called Dave Asprey. 1
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.
Fighting Death with “The Longevity Cookbook” by Maria Konovalenko
The most significant event in a person’s life is death. It changes everything. More precisely, it takes everything that a person had. If he was in love, he no longer is. If he was aspiring to pleasures, there will be none any longer. The world will be gone for the person.
Every single neuron will disappear that was responsible for the wishes, desires, and feelings. We don’t realize this, but everything single thing we accomplish, we do so looking in the face of inevitable death. Death takes away the sense of a person’s life.
The Making of an Anti-Theist Mom by Valerie Tarico
What makes a Seattle mother spend her days trying to chip away at Bible belief rather than digging holes in the garden?
When my husband sent me the Pew Report news that the percent of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped from 78.4 to 70.6 over the last 7 years, I responded jokingly with six words: You’re welcome. Molly Moon’s after dinner?
Not that I actually claim credit for the decline. As they say, it takes a village.
Wary Christians Flee Nevada Church After Yoga “Miracle” by Valerie Tarico
If yoga helps a Christian man to walk for the first time in thirty-three years, does his newfound strength come from God or the Devil? That is the question tearing apart an Evangelical church in Las Vegas.
Africa Needs NO Religion, for Peace and Development by Masereka Solomon
Education is important to every individual on this planet. In pre-colonial Uganda, education was mainly informal. Missionaries and colonialists introduced the formal education system, but the missionaries wanted Africans to believe in the message of Jesus.
Today, Jesus and Muhammed have almost equal shares in Africa.
As religion dies in the western countries, it is busy in Africa, along with poverty and human rights abuses.
Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements by Massimo Pigliucci
Groucho Marx, one of my favorite comedians of all time, famously wrote a telegram to a Hollywood club he had joined, that said: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” I have recently considered sending such a letter to the skeptic and atheist movements (henceforth, SAM), but I couldn’t find the address.
The Fallacy of Favoring Gradual Replacement Mind Uploading Over Scan-and-Copy by Keith B. Wiley
Mind uploading speculation and debate often concludes that a procedure described as gradual in-place replacement preserves personal identity while a procedure described as destructive scan-and-copy produces some other identity in the target substrate such that personal identity is lost along with the biological brain. This paper demonstrates a chain of reasoning that establishes metaphysical equivalence between these two methods in terms of preserving personal identity.
Homo in Machina: Ethics of the AI Soul by Steven Umbrello
Picard: “What are you doing now?”
Commander Data: “I am taking part in a legal hearing to determine my rights and status. Am I a person or am I property?”
The Age of Transhumanist Politics Has Begun: Will It Change Traditional Concepts of Left and Right? by Roland Benedikter
The founding of the Transhumanist Party of the United States, the intensifying of the U.S. BRAIN-Initiative and the start of Google’s project “Ending death” were important milestones in the year 2014, and potential further steps towards “transhumanist” politics. The most significant development was that the radical international technology community became a concrete political force, not by chance starting its global political initiative in the U.S. According to political scientist and sociologist Roland Benedikter, research scholar at the University of California at Santa Barbara, “transhumanist” politics has momentous growth potential but with uncertain outcomes. The coming years will probably see a dialogue between humanism and transhumanism in—and about—most crucial fields of human endeavor, with strong political implications that will challenge, and could change the traditional concepts, identities and strategies of Left and Right.
The Vision Thing by Rene Milan
A brief review of existing visions for alternative political systems.
How Evolution Gave Us Mathematics by Gregory Benford
THIS IS MY RESPONSE TO THE EDGE QUESTION OF A FEW YEARS BACK: WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? MY ANSWER: The intrinsic beauty and elegance of mathematics allows it to describe nature. Many believe this seeming axiom, that beauty leads to descriptive power. Our experience seems to show this, mostly from the successes of physics. There is some truth to it, but also some illusion.
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?
Uploading and Autonomy by Thomas Damberger
Transhumanism can be read as an intellectual and cultural movement. The objective of this movement is to enhance the human condition with the use of technological means. Enhancement in the transhumanistic sense goes far beyond everything that is regarded as normal and settled. “Enhancement” is presumably not the proper expression for this context and it should be replaced with the word “increase”.
The Legal Dilemma of Age Play in Virtual & Augmented Reality by B. J. Murphy
A few months ago I made the case here on IEET on the future possibilities of sex crimes as a result of exponentially growing technologies, from drones to haptic body suits. I didn’t make the case to try to convince people from refraining to use these technologies – especially for sexual purposes – but rather to stoke a discussion on the possible risks of said technologies and start developing a means to mitigate these risks if and when they present themselves.
Black, Minority Lives Need to Matter in Medicine, Too by R. J. Crayton
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
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