By the time you have finished reading this sentence, you will be acutely aware of the sensation of your back resting against the chair. This demonstration is used by psychology lectures to demonstrate that people are largely unaware of the vast majority of sensations that they experience. This disregard stems in part from mechanical limitations of the brain and the need to maintain a stable body image. The mechanical limitations are not germane to the topic of the paper beyond saying that the brain can only process so much incoming sensory information and it must decide which information is relevant at the moment.
In order to communicate with super intelligent beings (in this context, extraterrestrials that have figured out how travel many light years to reach our planet) we should first start with something we all share. A fundamental starting point – that is, pure consciousness.
Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) and I have both agreed and disagreed about transparency, for years. In his posting, Crime and Privacy, he has opined, for example, that “Ironically, the more the government clamps down on individual privacy, the more freedom the residents will have. When the government can detect every sort of crime, it will be forced by public opinion and by resource constraints to legalize anything it can detect but can’t stop.”
I’ve been meaning to recommend Michael Huemer’s latest book — The Problem of Political Authority — for some time. I don't have much to say about it, except that it is the most comprehensive and tightly-argued defence of political anarchism that I’ve ever come across.It is a book of two halves. In the first half, Huemer looks at the problem of political authority, which he says consists in two sub-problems. The first being the problem of political legitimacy, i.e. does the state have to make certain laws and enforce them by coercion? The second being the problem of political obligation, i.e. do people have an obligation to follow the laws made by the state?
Artificial wombs are a staple of science fiction, but could we really build one? As time passes, we’re inching closer and closer to the day when it will finally become possible to grow a baby entirely outside the human body. Here’s what we’ll need to do to pull it off.
It was a time when the greatest power the world had yet known suffered an attack on its primary city which seemed to signal the coming of an age of unstoppable decline.The once seemingly unopposable power no longer possessed control over its borders,it was threatened by upheaval in North Africa, unable to bring to heel the stubborn Iranians, or stem its relative decline. It was suffering under the impact of climate change, its politics infected with systemic corruption, its economy buckling under the weight of prolonged crisis.
The US House of Representatives revitalized efforts to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which never got the approval of the Senate last year. Yesterday the bill passed by a margin of 288 to 127 after two days of debate, which included the potential of malicious cyber attacks raining down on American power grids and disrupting livelihoods.
The freedom to die in peace has been much in the news of late. When an 83-year-old man shot first his dying wife and then himself in a Pennsylvania hospice, distressed commenters speculated that local law left him with no better options. The wife was bedridden, in a unit for people who have less than six months to live, and Pennsylvania has no Death with Dignity provisions like those in Washington and Oregon.
Sometimes a science-fiction novel achieves the impossible, and actually succeeds in reaching out and grasping the future, anticipating its concerns, grappling with its possibilities, wrestling with its ethical dilemmas. H.G. Wells’ short 1886 novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, is like that. The work achieved the feat of actually being relevant to our own time at the very least because the scientific capabilities Well’s imagined in the novel have really only begun to be possible today, and will be only more so going forward. The ethical territory he identified with his strange little book ones we are likely to be increasingly called upon to chart our own course through.
It has oft been observed that people are uneasy about the prospect of advanced enhancement technologies. But what is the cause of this unease? Is there any rational basis to it? I’m currently trying to work my way through a variety of arguments to this effect. At the moment, I’m looking at Saskia Nagel’s article “Too Much of Good Thing? Enhancement and the Burden of self determination”, which appeared a couple of years back in the journal Neuroethics.
Let’s face it: Technology and etiquette have been colliding for some time now, and things have finally boiled over if the recent spate of media criticisms is anything to go by. There’s the voicemail, not to be left unless you’re “dying.” There’s the e-mail signoff that we need to “kill.” And then there’s the observation that what was once normal — like asking someone for directions — is now considered “uncivilized.”
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.
‘Black Mirror’ purports to be one thing - “a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected that taps into our contemporary unease about the modern world”, and a single viewing of any episode will affirm this statement. Covering issues of privacy, mob justice, televisual spectacle, relationships in the modern age and the movement of communication, ‘Black Mirror’ ties all these strands together through our use of technology.
Perhaps one of the best ways to get a grip on our thoughts about the future is to look at the future as seen in the eyes of the past. This is not supposed to be a Zen koan to cause the reader’s mind to ground to a screeching halt, but a serious suggestion. Looking at how the past saw the future might reveal some things we might not easily see with our nose so close to the glass of contemporary visions of it. A good place to look, I think, would be the artistic and cultural movement of the early 20th century that went under the name of Futurism.
This is the second part in my series looking at pornography and the free speech principle. The series is focusing on the arguments analysed in Andrew Koppelman’s article “Is Pornography “Speech”?”. In part one, we looked at Frederick Schauer’s argument. In this post, we will look at John Finnis’s one. Both authors suggest that pornography is not covered by the FSP.
Imagine a future in which every child is a chosen child.Imagine a future in which a woman becomes fertile only when she wants to have a child—a future in which high school and college students can pursue their dreams and women can plan their lives according to their own values without being derailed by a surprise pregnancy. Imagine a future in which every child is a chosen child.
All seems to indicate that the next decade, the 20s, will be the magic decade of the brain, with amazing science but also amazing applications. With the development of nanoscale neural probes and high speed, two-way Brain-Computer interfaces (BCI), by the end of the next decade we may have our iPhones implanted in our brains and become a telepathic species. Ramez Naam’s great sci-fi novel NEXUS is a fascinating preview.
This post considers whether or not pornography should be covered by the free speech principle (FSP). According to this principle, all (or most) forms of speech should be free from government censorship and regulation. But this raises the question: which types of symbolic productions are covered by the FSP? And is pornography among them?
For the past few weeks, my six-year-old daughter has been obsessed with Selena Gomez reprising her role as Alex Russo on the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place. Like many of her friends, Rory has seen every episode of Wizards and religiously listens to Selena's music.
I haven’t said much political in a while. Moreover, amid all the talk of budget balancing and sequesters, I’d like to shift attention to a topic that may - at first sight - seem a bit wonkish and detached: farm subsidies. In fact, they are an area where Blue America remains frightfully ignorant and where the flood of entitlement spending merits closer attention, in times of near bankruptcy.
Social Darwinism, Ayn Rand’s objectivism, capitalism and eugenics are all catastrophes of human thought: How to create a federation of anarchist-socialist / anarchist-syndicalist workers. Warning: This is a techno-optimist and “politically”-positive article.
There has been quite a stir in philosophical circles over the last several years caused by the emergence of a new sub-field referred to as experimental philosophy (colloquially, “XPhi”). I was actually at one of the first symposia that a young crowd of energetic philosophers had organized to get things started back in the early aughts.
That’s like asking: Which of your children do you like best? Glory Season is my brave, indomitable daughter. The Postman is my courageous, civilization-saving son. Earth is the child who combined science and nature to become a planet. The Uplift War…well, I never had a better character than Fiben the earthy-intellectual chimp!