Someone interviewing me for a magazine asked me what current technology tomorrow’s children would find obsolete. I almost answered “The Internet.” Then I decided to think about that answer a little bit because it’s pretty scary. Then I decided it’s true. Shortly, humans may find today’s wide open Internet as archaic as we now find phones that are wired to walls. Here’s why. There are three huge pressures on the internet as we know it today – the one where I can write this essay, post it on my website, and you can find it and read it. Whoever you are.
Femen is notoriously well-known for its anti-authoritarian, anti-religion “top-free” protest activities in Europe, especially in the Ukraine (where they’re originally from) and in Paris, where they’re presently headquartered. Recent activities include disruption of a Catholic Christmas Mass in Cologne Cathedral in Germany, where Josephine – a Femen “sextremist” – clambered up and posed on the altar, arms widespread, with “I Am God” scrawled in black paint on her torso.
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.
This is the second in a series of posts looking at Searle's Wager and the rationality of mind-uploading. Searle's Wager is an argument that was originally developed by the philosopher Nicholas Agar. It claims that uploading one's mind to a computer (or equivalent substrate) cannot be rational because there is a risk that it might entail death. I covered the argument on this blog back in 2011. In this series, I'm looking at a debate between Nicholas Agar and Neil Levy about the merits of the argument. The current focus is on Levy's critique.
When is it ethically acceptable to harm another sentient being? On some fairly modest assumptions, to harm or kill someone simply on the grounds they belong to a different gender, sexual orientation or ethnic group is unjustified. Such distinctions are real but ethically irrelevant. On the other hand, species membership is normally reckoned an ethically relevant criterion. Fundamental to our conceptual scheme is the pre-Darwinian distinction between “humans” and “animals”.
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.
Standard IQ tests are problematic on many levels — not least, because they do very little to tell us about the quality of our thinking. Looking to overcome this oversight, psychologist Keith Stanovich has started to work on the first-ever Rationality Quotient test. We spoke to him to learn more.
The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn't mean our brains don't have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do math thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we're subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions.
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.
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.
I’ve heard you are interested in the topics of aging and longevity. This is very cool, because fighting for radical life extension is the wisest and most humanitarian strategy. I would like to tell you what needs to be done, but, unfortunately, I haven’t got your email address, or any other way to be heard.
There’s a new “viral” video making the rounds. It’s a 15-minute pro gay-marriage film that interviews children about the concepts of prejudice, fairness and gay marriage. All the children in the video except one seem to think that basic principles of fairness should apply to men marrying men and women marrying women. However, throughout the video, one kid insists gay marriage “is just wrong.” When pressed for why this is so, the boy (who appears to be a five- or six-year-old) can provide no reason for his assertion.
Did anyone see the World War Z scene where the zombies reach the top of a massive zombie-proof wall and start pouring over? The same thing has finally happened to Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state. Council members in Pierce County, Washington got busted last week because they allocated taxpayer dollars to fund not one, but two evangelical missionary organizations that target public school kids for conversion.
As we learn more and more details regarding government spying, it seems more and more foolhardy to trust our security to third party businesses.The state requires information on its subjects to be effective. From the first census in Egypt more than 5000 years ago, states have sought personal information on their citizens, especially in tyrannical states, where informants and secret police gather information on any and all potentially subversive activities.
My Facebook account is reserved for close friends and family (if you want to follow my writings, there’s Twitter). One of my very close relatives is a fellow of about my age, self-professed politically progressive, and with whom there is a lot of reciprocal respect and love. The ideal conditions to conduct the occasional rational discourse on politics or social issues, right? Wrong.
We have all experienced the frustration of trying to impart some kind of knowledge only to be met with obviously fake arguments. What we may be less aware of, however, is the extent to which people come up with such arguments because they simply don’t want to know. And even if we are aware of this, we may not know what to do about it.
In The American Way of War, historian Russell Weigley describes a grinding strategy of destruction employed by the U.S. military over the last 150 years. To end the Civil War, Grant felt he had to destroy lee’s soldiers; in World War I, Pershing relentlessly bombarded and wore down Germany’s proud fighting machine; and the Army Air Corps pulverized major German and Japanese cities to win World War II.
Many transhumanist factions point out a need to gain some form of longevity or even immortality. The most common forms are mind upload, life extending drugs and treatments, body part replacement with prosthetics or “spare parts” and lastly, cryonics.
For Google* there was Innocence of Muslims. For Twitter, there were, and still are, rape threats. For Facebook, now there are decapitations. Facebook’s controversy is the newest in a long line of quagmires that make companies—or at least their customers—question American platitudes about free speech. It comes after Facebook briefly decided not to ban one video of the brutal decapitation of a woman in Mexico to go viral.
During a recent weekend, I re-watched the movie Blood Diamonds (2007), an advocacy-entertainment movie trying to raise awareness about the problem of natural resources being used to finance horrific African wars. As illustrated in Blood, conflict diamonds were used to finance a civil war in Sierra Leone. While the movie is heavy flawed, the message is still important: the mining and exploitation of natural resources is creating havoc throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Picture a series of copper beads on a fine titanium alloy wire curved in a graceful sphere. It looks like an earring, but you won’t find it in a jewelry store. It’s made to go in your uterus. Intrauterine contraceptives are the fastest growing method of birth control in the U.S.One study showed that use doubled in just two years. Why are IUD’s suddenly hot among young women? And what should you tell your friend or daughter when she says she wants one?
Prominent free speech advocate Jonathan Rauch – who is gay and also a leading proponent of gay marriage – offers his thoughts about proposals for a boycott of Ender’s Game, the movie of Orson Scott Card’s monstrously successful novel from the mid 1980s.
It should probably seem strange to us that one of the memes we often use when trying to grapple with the question of how to understand the powers brought to us by modern science and technology is one inspired by an ancient Greek god chained to a rock. Well, actually not quite a god but a Titan, that is Prometheus.
Information and knowledge have been both feared and sought in the past. New information brings change, and change is often met with fear and resistance. In the past books were burned by the church and new technology destroyed by Luddites. The change that new information and knowledge brought was often regarded as threat to established interests. But inevitably with time, it brings benefits for all. New information changes our perception of ourselves, others and our environment. It breeds ideas and solutions for the obstacles we face and creates a positive feedback loop which is the driving force behind progress.
Though still decidedly secondary, the dream of transcending biological sex and established gender norms occupies a key place transhumanist in thought. Transhumanists extoll transgender people as prescient pioneers of morphological freedom and technological enhancement. This article explores the problem of gender - yes, it is a problem - in relation to feminist theory and proposed transhumanist solutions. I simultaneously critique and embrace visions of transcendence.
A new study spearheaded at Columbia University aims to provide parents with more information about their unborn children—including potential abnormalities and genetic defects. Spread across 10 different research hospitals that plan to secure 1,000 women each to participate, knowledge gained from the study will contribute to the ethical dialogue surrounding what parents do with more prenatal testing data.