In late December, while marriage equality became law in New Mexico and Utah, a Washington vice principal and coach at a Catholic school got fired for marrying his partner, and a Philadelphia Methodist minister was defrocked because he performed a wedding ceremony for his son.
Aside from “twerking” the only word that has made both the Oxford and Collins “word of the year” list is “Bitcoin”… and this is little wonder to anyone who has been following the story. In 2013 Bitcoin has caused nothing but greed, debate and bafflement in the online world. It has leapt in value, been accepted in an ever increasing array of stores… and at the start of December was at the heart of the biggest online robbery of all time. Have you been caught up in Bitcoin fever yet?
My greatest fear about the future is not of technology running out of control or posing existential risks to humankind. Rather, my greatest fear is that, in the year 2045, I will be 58 years old and already marked by notable signs of senescence, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking my morning coffee, and wondering, “What happened to that Singularity we were promised by now?
Days may be dark right now—after all, as the memes proclaim, axial tilt is the reason for the season. But things are looking bright for those who would like to see humanity more grounded in science and reason. If you are a nontheist in the mood for a party, here are ten reasons to celebrate.
What if you could improve memory and intelligence, and live in an ageless body – just by taking a pill? Though this may sound like the stuff of science fiction, experts are developing a better understanding of our genetic mysteries, including the powerful influence that DNA wields on our lives.
Is there another you reading this article at this exact moment in a parallel universe? Dr. Brian Greene, author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, believes that this freakish quirk of nature may exist; and he discusses its amazing possibilities in this 3-minute TV interview.
In a forthcoming episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast, Julia and I discuss the philosophy and science of suicide, i.e. what empirical inquiry tells us about suicides (who commits them, how, what are the best strategies for prevention) and how philosophical reflection may lead us to think of suicide. In this post I will focus on the philosophical side of the discussion, for which an excellent summary source, with a number of additional references, is this article by Michael Cholbi in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, to which I will keep referring below.
I don’t consider myself as someone with nostalgia for the past. Certainly the past is fascinating and worth studying – historically, archaeologically, astronomically, etc. – but I don’t consider it worth pursuing again, all while abandoning everything we’ve achieved thus far. I reach to the stars, though keep a distant memory of what I’ve learned in the past.
The current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible with human rights. To recover our freedom and restore democracy, we must reduce surveillance to the point where it is possible for whistleblowers of all kinds to talk with journalists without being spotted. To do this reliably, we must reduce the surveillance capacity of the systems we use.
Many Americans have heard that December 25 was a birthday of Roman gods long before it was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some people also know that our delightful mélange of Christmas festivities originated in ancient Norse, Roman and Druid traditions – or, in the case of Rudolph, on Madison Avenue. But where does the Christmas story itself come from: Jesus in the manger, the angels and wise men?
Hot chocolate, warm clothes, and wrapped presents under a tree, ‘tis once again the season to be jolly! We are familiar enough with the holidays as they are now; but what might Christmas be like in 25 years?
Although some people might find the idea of love with a machine repulsive, experts predict that as the technology advances and robots become more human-like, we will view our silicon cousins in a friendlier light. As the future unfolds, robots will fill more roles as family caregivers, household servants, and voice-enabled avatars that manage our driverless cars, automated homes, and entertainment systems.
Few children’s books touch on the theme of death. This is partially because our society deals with death as a dangerous and taboo topic. Many people feel they want to protect young minds from thinking about death at all. There is, however, a social movement afoot that treats the topic of death differently. Transhumanists believe that in the near future they will be able to eliminate death via the use of advanced medicine, science, and technology. Rather than fear or avoid death, they aim to fight directly against it.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other “omics” profiles and integrating these data with the individuals’ health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions.
“Your threshold for pain is near zero”, said my dentist, as she deftly moved the extremely thin fiber optic laser head away. “That’s why I chose to fly in here. Gum filet carving doesn’t appeal to me”, I mumbled, my lips feeling leathery from the anesthetic spray. There was a mild tingling as the laser killed millions of enemies under my gum-line. I lay back in the chair and considered the alternative I was presented only the day before by an over enthusiastic periodontist - A scalpel and suture gum flap procedure for “deep cleaning.”
A number of people who I respect have written articles and chapters in books that support GMO crops. These include leading environmentalist Mark Lynas, author of The God Species: How the planet can survive the age of humans, and Ramez Naam, author of The Infinite Resource: The power of ideas on a finite planet.
Is there a person alive today who does not fear dying? Well yes, if they are asleep or in a coma. But most of us, while we are awake and going about our business, harbour a deep-seated fear of dying. (“Thanatophobia”, in case anyone was wondering, being Greek for “fear of death”.)
Transhumanism is all about the creative and ethical use of technology to better the human condition. Futurists, when discussing topics related to transhumanism, tend to look at nano-tech, bio-mechanical augmentation and related technology that, for the most part, is beyond the comprehension of lay-people.
As we move into the late 2030s and 2040s, the most salient scenario is that we will merge with our technology gradually, not overnight. We may not experience a single great leap like a “Singularity;” instead, we could see many small steps as we slowly become more machine-like.
As just about everyone who uses Twitter is likely aware, on Thursday the company attempted to roll out changes to the “block” feature. Instead of the previous policy, which didn’t allow blocked users to follow you or interact with your Tweets, “block” was going to function more like “mute”: blocked users would still be able to follow you and interact with (RT, MT, favourite, etc) your Tweets, you’d just never see it happening.
At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia. When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister. “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said. “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.
To think about the existential prospects that lie ahead for Humanity 2.0, or Homo futura, imagine yourself in 1900 faced with two investment opportunities for the future of personal human transport: on the one hand, a specially bred – that is, genetically modified – horse; on the other, a mass-produced automobile. Which prospect would you pursue?
An ardent objection common to human enhancement and transhumanism is that it is both perilous and foolhardy to try to ‘play God’, or to question the wisdom of Mother Nature. As with most mental shortcuts, there is some truth in the ‘nature knows best’ argument. Cognitive enhancement, perhaps the most challenging and promising of all, is no mean feat. Naïve intervention into the mechanisms of the most complex system in the known universe could disrupt the delicately poised equilibrium struck by evolution over millions of years with unknown consequences.
A major benefit of longer lifespans is the cultivation of a wide array of virtues. Prudence and forethought are among the salutary attributes that the lengthening of human life expectancies – hopefully to the point of eliminating any fixed upper bound – would bring about. Living longer renders people more hesitant to risk their lives, for the simple reason that they have many more years to lose than their less technologically endowed ancestors.
Carl Gibson and Steve Horn have done an important service in writing their article outlining Srdja Popovic’s inexcusable collaboration with the global intelligence company STRATFOR and his disclosure of the activities of movements and activists with whom he has worked. Unfortunately, as will be spelled out below, the article falls into a rather simplistic and reductionist analysis of Popovic’s motivations and, more critically, misrepresents the nature of the popular uprisings in Serbia and other countries. The article also contains a number of factual errors and misleading statements.
The ‘Big Bang’ theory, widely regarded as the leading explanation for the origin of the universe, goes something like this: space and time instantly appeared about 14 billion years ago in a hot, expanding fireball of nearly infinite density.