Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: FreeThought

Robotic Online Short Film Festival
November 20
Universidad Elche, Spain


Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work Conference
December 5-6
Rice University, Houston, Texas




MULTIMEDIA: FreeThought Topics

The Science of Fear-Mongering: How to Protect Your Mind from Demagogues

Karen Levy on the Rise of Intimate Surveillance

What Makes You YOU? Individuality, Consciousness and The Borg

Self-Awareness Is Essential in Comedy and in Life

How to face new scientific technologies

Could the Solution to the World’s Biggest Problems Be…a Park?

The Internet Is Still Brand New. Maybe That’s Why We’re All Fighting

5 Steps to Achieve Enlightenment — All Supported by Science

How Imagination and Intelligence Work Together in the Brain

What’s so sexy about math?

Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast: Deborah Lupton on the Quantified Self

Zoos Enrich Our Lives but Cost Animals Their Dignity

The Psychology of Solitude: Being Alone Can Maximize Productivity

Work/Life Balance Is a Non-Issue If You Find Your Purpose

History Lesson: Trump’s Rise Might Signal the Collapse of the Republican Party




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FreeThought Topics




Is Robust Moral Realism a kind of Religious Belief?

by John Danaher

Robust moral realism is the view that moral facts exist, but that they are not reducible to non-moral or natural facts. According to the robust realist, when I say something like ‘It is morally wrong to torture an innocent child for fun’, I am saying something that is true, but whose truth is not reducible to the non-moral properties of torture or children. Robust moral realism has become surprisingly popular in recent years, with philosophers like Derek Parfit, David Enoch, Erik Wielenberg and Russell Shafer-Landau all defending versions of it.



Computers and Law Special Edition on Algorithmic Governance

by John Danaher

As part of the Algocracy and Transhumanism project I am running, myself and my colleague Dr. Rónán Kennedy put together a special edition of the journal/magazine Computers and Law on the topic of algorithmic governance. It consists of a diverse range of articles on the increasingly prominent role of algorithms in decision-making, and the implications this has for the law. The special edition arose from a workshop we held on the topic back in March 2016.



A Free Education for all the World’s People: Why is this Not yet a Thing?

by Eliott Edge

When we as a global community confront the truly difficult question of considering what is really worth devoting our limited time and resources to in an era marked by such global catastrophe, I always find my mind returning to what the Internet hasn’t really been used for yet—and what was rumored from its inception that it should ultimately provide—an utterly and entirely free education for all the world’s people.



Decadent Europe’s Islamist Dystopia

by Rick Searle

Sometimes I get the feeling that the West really is intellectually and spiritually bankrupt. I take my cue here not from watching Eurovision or anything like its American equivalent, but from the fact that, despite how radically different our circumstance is from our predecessors, we can’t seem to get beyond political ideas that have been banging around since the 19th century. Instead of coming up with genuine alternatives we rebrand antique ideas. After all, isn’t “fully automated luxury communism” really just a technophilic version of communism which hopes to shed all association with breadlines or statues of strapping workers with hammers in their hands? Let’s just call the thing Marxism and get it the hell over with.



Liberalism’s Great Challenge: How Can We Critique Ideas while Protecting People?

by Valerie Tarico

Secular and reformist Muslims plead that we learn to tell the difference between analyzing ideas and attacking people.

When Islam is at question, members of the American Left and Right race into opposite corners. After the Orlando nightclub massacre, to cite one recent example, conservatives spewed anti-Muslim invective to the point that ordinary American Muslims were afraid to leave home.



Vote for IEET’s Managing Director’s Scholarship Competition

IEET Managing Director Steven Umbrello has entered a photo competition in order to be entered to win a scholarship for his graduate studies. In order to help him make the shortlist you can follow the link below to vote for his picture titled ‘Arrogance Dying’.

VOTE HERE



Shedding Light on Peter Thiel’s Dark Enlightenment

by Rick Searle

Lately I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of deja vu, and not in the least of a good kind. The recent bout was inspired by Ben Smith’s piece for BuzzFeed in which he struggled to understand how an Ayn Rand loving libertarian like the technologist Peter Thiel could end up supporting a statist demagogue like Donald Trump. Smith’s reasoning was that Trump represented perhaps the biggest disruption of them all and could use the power of the state to pursue the singularity and flying-cars Theil believed were one at our fingertips.



The Movie “Spotlight”: Philosophical Reflections

by John G. Messerly

Last night I watched “Spotlight,” one of the finest films I’ve seen in years.

The film follows The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States,[6] and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the “Spotlight” team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.[7] … The film … was named one of the finest films of 2015 by various publications. Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture along with Best Original Screenplay … (from Wikipedia)



Piketty on Free Higher Education and the Value of Meritocracy

by John Danaher

I have worked hard to get where I am. I come from a modest middle class background. Neither of my parents attended university. They grew up in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when the economy was only slowly emerging from its agricultural roots. I and my siblings were born and raised in the 1970s and 1980s, in an era of high unemployment and emigration. Things started to get better in the 1990s as the Irish economy underwent its infamous ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom. I did well in school and received a (relatively) free higher education, eventually pursuing a masters and PhD in the mid-to-late 2000s.



A World Ruled by Networks

by Rick Searle

One of the more confusing characteristics of our age is how it trucks in contradiction. As a prime example: the internet is the most democratizing medium in the history of humankind giving each of us the capability to reach potentially billions with the mere stroke of a key. At the same time this communication landscape is one of unprecedented concentration dominated by a handful of companies such as Facebook Google, Twitter, and in China Baidu.



How our police became storm troopers, redux

by Rick Searle

Give events of late I thought it relevant to re-post this piece from the summer of 2014 on the militarization of policing. Sadly, almost nothing has changed, except that my prediction that police would start using robots to kill people has come true, though in a way I certainly did not anticipate. I haven’t changed anything from the original post besides cleaning up the some of the shitty grammar and adding the mind-blowing photo by Jonathan Bachman, a freelancer for Reuters. If they have history books in 20 years time that photo will be in them.



IEET Affiliate Scholar Franco Cortese Publishes Article in International Journal of Technoethics

The Technoethical Ethos of Technic Self-Determination

This paper addresses concerns that the development and proliferation of Human Enhancement Technologies (HET) will be (a) dehumanizing and (b) a threat to our autonomy and sovereignty as individuals. The paper argues contrarily that HET constitutes nothing less than one of the most effective foreseeable means of increasing the autonomy and sovereignty of individual members of society. Furthermore, it elaborates the position that the use of HET exemplifies – and indeed even intensifies – our most human capacity and faculty: namely the desire for increased self-determination, which is referred to as the will toward self-determination. Based upon this position, the paper argues that the use of HET bears fundamental ontological continuity with the human condition in general and with the historically-ubiquitous will toward self-determination in particular. HET will not be a dehumanizing force, but will rather serve to increase the very capacity that characterizes us as human more accurately than anything else.

Full Story...
Link to International Journal of Technoethics



Beware the Rise of Gerontocracy: Some Hard Lessons for Transhumanism, Not Least from Brexit

by Steve Fuller

Transhumanists will know that the science fiction author Zoltan Istvan has unilaterally leveraged the movement into a political party contesting the 2016 US presidential election. To be sure, many transhumanists have contested Istvan’s own legitimacy, but there is no denying that he has generated enormous publicity for many key transhumanist ideas. Interestingly, his lead idea is that the state should do everything possible to uphold people’s right to live forever. Of course, he means to live forever in a healthy state, fit of mind and body. Istvan cleverly couches this policy as simply an extension of what voters already expect from medical research and welfare provision. And while he may be correct, the policy is fraught with hazards – especially if, as many transhumanists believe, we are on the verge of revealing the secrets to biological immortality.



Bertrand Russell on Fearing Thought

by John G. Messerly

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. ~ Bertrand Russell



Is America on the Verge of Civil War?

by John G. Messerly

While the idea may sound absurd, it happened just a few generations ago. The industrial north and the slave-holding, agrarian south couldn’t agree on, among other things, the extension of slavery into new states, as both sides didn’t want the other to gain a congressional voting advantage. A series of compromises over many years maintained the delicate balance, but gradually the two sides became more partisan, the rhetoric more divisive, and civil discourse eventually disappeared. Soon violence would be used to adjudicate their disputes, with the south firing the first shot. Within four years 700,000 Americans were dead, thousands more injured, homeless, widowed or orphaned. If that proportion of Americans were killed today, about 8 million Americans would die. The south thought that slavery and the lifestyle it provided were worth dying and killing for … and die and kill they did.



Mens Health Week: One Doctor Thinks We Should Be Talking about Better Birth Control for Guys

by Valerie Tarico

Dr. Stephanie Page at the University of Washington talks about why male birth control matters.

The Centers for Disease Control declared June 13 to 19 of 2016 as “National Men’s Health Week.” If it was Women’s Health Week, media experts would be talking a lot about sexual health and, especially, how women can safeguard against ill-timed or unwanted pregnancy. But for guys, pregnancy prevention is not even on the list, which instead emphasizes sleep, tobacco, food choices, and exercise.



On tragedy, ethics and the human condition.

by Alex McGilvery

The shootings at the Pulse club in Orlando highlight once more just how far we humans need to go in the evolution of our ethics. People on all sides have already weighed in on how their particular way of seeing the world would have prevented the crime. Almost immediately they began talking past each other with little or no effort to hear the other side.



Pourquoi la théorie du genre effraie-t-elle encore?

by Marc Roux

La rentrée des classes en France a été particulièrement médiatisée cette année, notamment à cause de la hausse des effectifs scolaires. Mais avant même que les suppressions de postes et leurs conséquences n’eurent atteint les médias nationaux, une toute autre polémique, concernant le contenu des nouveaux programmes de SVT, avait déjà occupé le paysage médiatique et crée un débat sociétal assez peu commun.



Review of Bryan Magee’s, “Ultimate Questions”

by John G. Messerly

Bryan Magee (1930 – ) has had a multifaceted career as a professor of philosophy, music and theater critic, BBC broadcaster, public intellectual and member of Parliament. He has starred in two acclaimed television series about philosophy: Men of Ideas (1978) and The Great Philosophers (1987). He is best known as a popularizer of philosophy. His easy-to-read books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages, include:



The Monotony of Work

by John G. Messerly

I corresponded with an old friend yesterday who was communicating the tedium of his work as a software engineer. He is thankful that he earns a six-figure salary, and he understands that most people in the world would happily trade places with him, but that doesn’t change the fact that a future filled with a lifetime of coding doesn’t excite his probing and restless mind. Minds like his need stimulation, and they could contribute so much to the rest of us if they were freed to follow their interests . Moreover, while technology companies pay some of the best wages in the United States, they expect more than 40 hours of work in return, which leaves my friend with less time with his children than he would like.



Is Effective Altruism Fair to Small Donors? (Guest Post by Iason Gabriel)

by John Danaher

NOTE: This is a guest post by Iason Gabriel from St. John’s College Oxford. I recently did a series on Iason’s excellent article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. In this post, Iason develops his counterfactual critique of effective altruism. Be sure to check out more of Iason’s work on his academia page.)



Is Effective Altruism actually Effective?

by John Danaher

(Part one; part two; part three)

This is going to be my final post on the topic of effective altruism (for the time being anyway). I’m working my way through the arguments in Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. Once I finish, Iason has kindly agreed to post a follow-up piece which develops some of his views.



Is Effective Altruism Methodologically Biased?

by John Danaher

(Part One; Part Two)

After a long hiatus, I am finally going to complete my series of posts about Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’ (changed from the original title ‘What’s wrong with effective altruism?). I’m pleased to say that once I finish the series I am also going to post a response by Iason himself which follows up on some of the arguments in his paper. Let me start today, however, by recapping some of the material from previous entries and setting the stage for this one.



IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher Publishes New Paper - Robots, Law and the Retribution Gap

Here is a new paper that John Danaher, IEET Affiliate Scholar, has published and will be coming out in the journal Ethics and Information Technology. In case you are interested, the idea for this paper originated in this blogpost from late 2014.

Full Story...
Link to Ethics and Information Technology



Capital Lust, Not Capitalism, is Destroying the Earth and the Economy - See more at: http://ehumanda

by Nicole Sallak Anderson

I don’t like the word capitalism, but not because I’m against the free market. Open trade and markets provide wealth and raise the standard of living for the majority of people in democratic societies. Free markets also allow the exchange of ideas and innovations without the meddling of governments or religion.



Dr. Martine Rothblatt Speaks at 2016 MOOG Fest Protesting Transgender Bias Law

Moogfest will feature a keynote address from IEET Trustee Martine Rothblatt, a transgender woman who is the chief executive of United Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, and a founder of Sirius Satellite Radio, now SiriusXM. United Therapeutics has an office and manufacturing facility outside of Durham.

Full Story...
Link to New York Time



The Injustice of Sexism

by John G. Messerly

I read an interesting article this morning titled, “Late-breaking sexism”: why younger women aren’t excited about electing a woman president.” Its main theme is that while women have made great strides, there is still a lot of sexism in the USA, especially the kind that manifests itself in a woman’s late twenties and early thirties when the demands of career and family intersect.



What’s Killing the American Middle Class?

by Richard Eskow

A new study by the Pew Research Center spurred a rash of headlines last week about “the dying middle class.” But the word “dying” might be more appropriate if we were watching the regrettable but inevitable effects of natural forces at work. We’re not. We’re seeing the fruits of deliberate action—and sometimes of deliberate inaction—at the highest levels of power.



The Future of PR in Emotionally Intelligent Technology

by Jules Hamilton

PR is essentially the practice of managing the spread of information, and this is a tactical craft. For the PR professional years of experience combine knowledge of pragmatic practice and human intuition to generate desired results, a positive image and receptive message.



Ontario Could Soon Require Anti-Vaxxer Parents to Attend a Science Class

by George Dvorsky

In an effort to curb the dangerous trend of vaccine avoidance, the Liberal government in Ontario wants parents seeking vaccine exemptions for their kids to attend a mandatory education session. It’s a good idea, but getting anti-vaxxers to change their opinions will probably require more than that.

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