Purpose of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view



UPCOMING EVENTS: FreeThought

Psymposia - Beyond the War on Drugs
April 17-19
Amherst, MA USA




MULTIMEDIA: FreeThought Topics

The Need for Cognitive Privacy

Open Education, Open Educational Resources and MOOCs

1950s “Housewife” Tries LSD

Should We Have Control Over Our Consciousness?

The Brain is our last frontier and consciousness is expanding

Psychedelic Spirituality

The 19-Year-Old Luminary Building A Cheaper, Better Prosthetic Limb

Humanities and the Science of Learning: Revealing the essence of human thought (1hr)

Review the Future: What is Technoprogressivism?

The small and surprisingly dangerous detail the police track about you

Is Ferguson like Mockingjay?

Genetic Enineering and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

The Most Controversial Decision in History

Review The Future: What is the Future of Education?

What is Transhumanism?




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FreeThought Topics




The Genetics and Neuroscience of Torture

by piero scaruffi

Every book on torture that i have browsed is mainly devoted to methods of torture and then to three topics: Ethical arguments against torture, Utilitarian arguments against torture, and History of the rejection of torture. I cannot find a neuroscientist or psychologist who thought of writing about the exact opposite: What were the ethical justifications for torture?, What were the utilitarian arguments for torture? and What is the history of the widespread adoption of torture? 



Autonomy and Anti-Vaccination Advocates

by Kyle Treman

As the measles outbreak grows, 173 cases since March 6th, most cases have been traced from the unvaccinated child in Disneyland, with additional outlier cases and it has become our latest national fascination with a bioethics issue.  



Atheism as Intellectual Snobbery?

by John G. Messerly

Just a few brief remarks about Emma Green’s recent in the Atlantic, “The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication.” Green says: “Theirs [atheists] is a subtle assertion: Believers aren’t educated or thoughtful enough to debunk God, and if they only knew more, rational evidence would surely offset faith.”



Marijuana for Anxiety

by John G. Messerly

A few days ago there was an interesting article in the New York Times, “The Feel-Good Gene,” by a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. The author wonders why some people are predisposed to anxiety which doesn’t have obvious environmental causes, and which is thus not helped by psychotherapy.



Transpolitica Manifesto

by David Wood

Transpolitica holds that human society should embrace, wisely, thoughtfully, and compassionately, the radical transformational potential of technology. The speed and direction of technological adoption can be strongly influenced by social and psychological factors, by legislation, by subsidies, and by the provision or restriction of public funding. Political action can impact all these factors, either for better or for worse.



Hume on Suicide

by John G. Messerly

David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher, economist, historian and one of the most famous figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume is often grouped with John Locke, George Berkeley, and a handful of others as a British Empiricist



Enhancing Virtues: Fairness (Pt 3)

by J. Hughes

Are there ways to directly strengthen fairness and moral cognition in the prefrontal cortex, and weaken the cognitive biases bubbling up from the amygdala? Research on the genetic correlates of moral cognition, and the effects of psychoactive drugs, and of electrical and magnetic manipulation of the brain, suggest there are ways to enhance fairness and impartiality.



Enhancing Virtues: Fairness (Pt 2)

by J. Hughes

Fairness is a liberal virtue rooted in instinctive aversion to cheating and inequality, but then filtered through prefrontal cognition.  Since the spread of Enlightenment values fairness has grown in importance as a virtue, especially for liberals with stronger prefrontal cortices and weaker amygdalas. Fairness finds less support among conservatives for whom respect for authority, ingroup loyalty and disgust/sanctity are more neurologically salient. What impact do social policy and individual practices have on the influence of fairness and cognitive biases?



Two Interpretations of the Extended Mind Hypothesis

by John Danaher

I’m trying to wrap my head around the extended mind hypothesis (EMH). I’m doing so because I’m interested in its implications for the debate about enhancement and technology. If the mind extends into the environment outside the brain/bone barrier, then we are arguably enhancing our minds all the time by developing new technologies, be they books and abacuses or smartphones and wearable tech. Consequently, we should have no serious principled objection to technologies that try to enhance directly inside the brain/bone barrier.



The Junk Science and Bad Faith Behind Colorado’s IUD Controversy

by Valerie Tarico

Opposition to IUD’s, like opposition to vaccines, is putting American families at risk—and a Colorado controversy shows that misguided faith and scientific ignorance are to blame. When a pilot program in Colorado offered teens state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives—IUD’s and implants—teen births plummeted by 40%, along with a drop in abortions. The program saved the state 42.5 million dollars in a single year, over five times what it cost. But rather than extending or expanding the program, some Colorado Republicans are trying to kill it—even if this stacks the odds against Colorado families. 



It’s Time to Destroy DRM

by Erick Vasconcelos

On January 20, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced the Apollo 1201 project, an effort to eradicate digital rights management (DRM) schemes from the world of Internet commerce. Led by well-known activist Cory Doctorow, the project aims to “accelerate the movement to repeal laws protecting DRM” and “kick-start a vibrant market in viable, legal alternatives to digital locks.” According to EFF, DRM technologies “threaten users’ security and privacy, distort markets, undermine innovation,” and don’t effectively protect so-called “intellectual property.”



To Prevent World War III, Do Not Arm Ukraine’s Regime

by Gennady Stolyarov II

One can rarely find four thinkers as distinct from one another as Gorbachev, Kissinger, Chomsky, and Ron Paul, and yet, for all of their differences, each of them is clearly guided by a systematic, thoroughly considered intellectual framework. All four of these thinkers have concluded, starting from different practical and moral premises, that further escalation of the Ukraine crisis by the United States would be a dangerous, deeply inadvisable behavior.



Natural Law Ethic (Part 1 & 2)

by John G. Messerly

Let us now consider the view that morality rests upon religion. Assuming that a relationship between some God and morality exists, how do we characterize it? A classic formulation of this relationship is the divine command theory which states that “morally right” means commanded by God, and “morally wrong” means forbidden by God.



Enhancing Virtues: Fairness (pt 1)

by J. Hughes

Our moral codes are rooted in preconscious feelings of disgust at people who hurt others, cheat, are disloyal, disobey authority, and violate social taboos. Some of these moral feelings support modern Enlightenment ideas of morality while others are in contradiction with modern values of individual rights and critical thought. By illuminating the ways that our value systems are shaped by prerational impulses we can make more conscious choices about how to build a fair society and practice the civic virtues of fairness and engaged citizenship.  But we also can begin to experiment with ways to enhance our moral reasoning with drugs and devices to become even better citizens than previously possible.



Sex and Love in the Age of Algorithms

by Rick Searle

How’s this for a 21st century Valentine’s Day tale: a group of religious fundamentalists want to redefine human sexual and gender relationships based on a more than 2,000 year old religious text. Yet instead of doing this by aiming to seize hold of the cultural and political institutions of society, a task they find impossible, they create an algorithm which once people enter their experience is based on religiously derived assumptions users cannot see. People who enter this world have no control over their actions within it, and surrender their autonomy for the promise of finding their “soul mate”.



Virtual reality a new frontier for religions

by Giulio Prisco

In “Virtual reality a new frontier for religions,” published yesterday on Hypergrid Business, I argue that massively popular virtual churches, place of worship and spiritual communities in Virtual Reality (VR) will be developed with next-generation VR systems.



Is Ethics Relative? (Part 3)

by John G. Messerly

If morality is not relative to culture, might it be relative to a person’s beliefs, attitudes, emotions, opinions, desires, wants, etc.? Personal relativism is a theory that holds that moral judgments are relative to, conditioned by, or dependent upon, individuals. This theory has ancient roots, but it’s also popular today.2 These remarks capture the basic idea:



Christianity’s Painfully Mixed Track Record on Slavery

by Valerie Tarico

Taken as a package, the Bible sends mixed messages about slavery, which is why Christian leaders used the Good Book on both sides—including in the lead up to the American civil war. Should a person be able to own another person? Today Christians uniformly say no, and many would like to believe that has always been the case.  But history tells a different story, one in which Christians have struggled to give a clear answer when confronted with questions about human trafficking and human rights.



Primum Non Nocere and the Hippocratic Oath

by Kelly Hills

Unless you’ve been under a rock or on a boat in the middle of the ocean1, you’re aware that the United States is in the middle of a measles outbreak that has, so far, infected over 100 people, and was traced back to December Disneyland visits.



You Am Us

by Giulio Prisco

We all, as individuals and members of societies, dedicate a lot of effort to finding ways to cope with the idea of death. Most believers in traditional Western religions imagine resurrection in an afterlife, where they will be forever reunited with loved ones. Most believers in traditional Eastern religions and spiritual traditions think that, while an otherworldly realm beyond physical reality may eventually be attained, most people go through a long string of lives here on Earth (reincarnation).



10 Reasons Popular Versions of Christian Heaven Would be Hell

by Valerie Tarico

Maybe descriptions of Hell are so horrific to keep people from thinking about how hellish popular versions of the Christian Heaven would be—even without Pat Robertson in the mix. Most Westerners are at least vaguely familiar with the popular Christian version of Heaven: pearly gates, streets of gold, winged angels and the Righteous, with their bodies made perfect and immortal, singing the praises of God forever. What’s surprising is how few people have actually thought about what a nightmare this kind of existence would be.



Time to Start Looking At ‘Cyborg’ As a Gender Identity

by B. J. Murphy

I am a Cyborg. No, I don’t have any technological enhancements just yet, though I plan on doing so very soon with help from my friends within the DIY grinder community. Even then, my “choosing” to identify myself as a cyborg is more than a mere desire for cyborg enhancements, but is an identity that I feel deeply within myself – a longing to express myself in ways that my current biological body cannot.



The End of Religion Misrecognized

by Lincoln Cannon

So much anti-religious dogmatism, so much misrecognized religiosity, so little time. It's a wonder to me that some clearly sophisticated persons can express such unsophisticated opinions about religion. Maybe it's just because we all have vested interests? On the one hand, those who have distanced themselves from tradition seek to justify their choice, as those who have continued to embrace tradition likewise would justify themselves. What's to be made of the strange creatures, arguably not so uncommon now or ever, that reject any notion of the choice being all or nothing or even mutually exclusive?



If There Are Gods, They Are Evil

by John G. Messerly

Here is a brief summary of a piece by B.C. Johnson, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?” It offers a devastating critique of the possibility that there is an all powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god. Are there any good excuses for someone (or a god) not saving a baby from a burning house if they had the power to do so? It will not do to say the baby will go to heaven, since one suffers by burning to death. 



Death With Dignity vs. “Redemptive Suffering” - The Legacy of Brittany Maynard

by Valerie Tarico

 In the fall of 2014, a young dying woman, Brittany Maynard, captured the hearts of millions around the world. Now her husband and mother have teamed up with a national advocacy group, Compassion & Choices to honor her final wish—that aid in dying be available to terminally ill Americans in every state.  



Review of Appleman’s: The Labyrinth: God, Darwin, and the Meaning of Life (Part 1)

by John G. Messerly

Philip D. Appleman (1926 –  ) is an American poet, a Darwin scholar, and Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University. He has recently published a new book: The Labyrinth: God, Darwin, and the Meaning of Life. It is a short book, only about 60 pages, but it is carefully and conscientiously crafted, so I will quote extensively from its beautiful prose.



Today’s Visionary: A Guide to MLK’s 21st Century Insights

by Richard Eskow

Here it was again. This holiday weekend we saw a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we heard very little about who he really was – a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. Dr. King’s life and legacy stand as a challenge to an entrenched society of privilege and injustice. Here are nine quotes that reflect that legacy.



World Economic Forum highlights risks of emerging technologies

by Andrew Maynard

The challenges of governing emerging technologies are highlighted by the World Economic Forum in the 2015 edition of its Global Risks Report. Focusing in particular on synthetic biology, gene drives and artificial intelligence, the report warns that these and other emerging technologies present hard-to-foresee risks, and that oversight mechanisms need to more effectively balance likely benefits and commercial demands with a deeper consideration of ethical questions and medium to long-term risks.



Enhancement and authenticity: Is it all about being true to our selves?

by John Danaher

I’ve met Erik Parens twice; he seems like a thoroughly nice fellow. I say this because I’ve just been reading his latest book Shaping Our Selves: On Technology, Flourishing and a Habit of Thinking, and it is noticeable how much of his personality shines through in the book. Indeed, the book opens with a revealing memoir of Parens’s personal life and experiences in bioethics, specifically in the enhancement debate. What’s more, Parens’s frustrations with the limiting and binary nature of much philosophical debate is apparent throughout his book.



William Gibson Groks the Future: The Peripheral

by Rick Searle

It’s hard to get your head around the idea of a humble prophet. Picturing Jeremiah screaming to the Israelites that the wrath of God is upon them and then adding “at least I think so, but I could be wrong…” or some utopian claiming the millenium is near, but then following it up with “then again this is just one man’s opinion…” would be the best kind of ridiculous- seemingly so out of character to be both shocking and refreshing.

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