Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: FreeThought



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




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.



More On Free Will: Pereboom’s Four Case Argument against Compatiblism

by John Danaher

I have recently been working my way through some of the arguments in Derk Pereboom’s book Free Will, Agency and Meaning in Life. The book presents the most thorough case for hard incompatibilism of which I am aware. Hard incompatibilism is the view that free will is not compatible with causal determinism, and, what’s more, probably doesn’t even exist. In previous entries, I’ve looked at Pereboom’s critique of non-compatibilist theories of free will. In this post, I want to look at his famous argument against compatibilism.



The Disappearing Agent Objection to Free Will Libertarianism

by John Danaher

The term “libertarianism” is used in two senses in philosophical circles. The first, and perhaps more famous sense, is as a name for a family of political theories that prioritise individual freedom; the second, and perhaps less famous (except among the cognoscenti), is as a specific view on the nature of free will. It is the latter sense that concerns me in this post.



The Free Will Debate: Sourcehood or Alternative Possibilities?

by John Danaher

What makes us free, if we are free? In other words, what conditions must be satisfied in order for us to say of any particular agent that he/she has free will or doesn’t? This is something that philosophers have long debated. Indeed, the free will debate is almost nauseating in its persistence and intricacy.



Bergson, Free Will, and the Philosophy of Cognitive Enhancement

by Melanie Swan

Bergson claims that free will exists. It occurs in moments when a living being experiences duration, which is tuning into the internal sense of an experience, and a freely-determined action flows from this state. His reasoning is that “if duration is heterogeneous (if we are tuned into the internal sense of experience), the relation of the psychic state to act is unique, and the act is rightly judged free.



#8: Future of love and sex: monogamy no longer the default, say experts

by Dick Pelletier

There’s a pervasive notion that monogamous relationships are the end-all-be-all – the default pact in human couplings that keep the fabric of society from being torn apart. But growing numbers of scientists believe monogamy is not our biological default; and may not even represent the best road to happiness.



Self Absorption

by Joseph R. Carvalko

Looking back on my early experience as a young engineer, I am reminded how little my colleagues and I appreciated that what we did would change the world, for good and for bad. I am also reminded how Marcel Golay, one of my early mentors understood the duality of technology and how this feature plays large in its application for the right purpose.



2014: The death of the Human Rights Movement, or It’s Rebirth?

by Rick Searle

For anyone interested in the issues of human rights, justice, or peace, and I assume that would include all of us, 2014 was a very bad year. It is hard to know where to start, with Eric Garner, the innocent man choked to death in New York city whose police are supposed to protect citizens not kill them, or Ferguson Missouri where the lack of police restraint in using lethal force on African Americans, burst into public consciousness, with seemingly little effect, as the chilling murder of a young boy wielding a pop gun occurred even in the midst of riots that were national news.



The Not-So-Virgin Birth of the Christmas Story

by Valerie Tarico

Celestial messengers, natural wonders and a virgin birth establish the baby Jesus as someone special. Why does the rest of the New Testament ignore these auspicious beginnings?



#27 Enhancing Virtues: Caring (part 1)

by J. Hughes

Empathy draws on both mammalian circuits that we share with other animals and cognitive abilities that only appear to be present in our closest relatives, the great apes and and cetaceans, and ourselves.  As with happiness and self-control, there is strong evidence that differences in our capacity for compassion and empathy are tied to differences in the brain structures and neurochemistries that they depend on.



Think Time is Speeding Up? Here’s How to Slow It!

by Rick Searle

One of the weirder things about human being’s perception of time is that our subjective clocks are so off. A day spent in our dreary cubicles can seem to crawl like an Amazonian sloth, while our weekends pass by as fast as a chameleon’s tongue . Most dreadful of all, once we pass into middle age, time seems to transform itself from a lumbering steam train heaving us through clearly delineated seasons and years to a Japanese bullet unstoppably hurdling us towards death with decades passing us by in a blurr.



Brain-based Lie Detection and the Mereological Fallacy

by John Danaher

Some people think that neuroscience will have a significant impact on the law. Some people are more sceptical. A recent book by Michael Pardo and Dennis Patterson — Minds, Brains and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience — belongs to the sceptical camp. In the book, Pardo and Patterson make a passionate plea for conceptual clarity when it comes to the interpretation of neuroscientific evidence and its potential application in the law. They suggest that most neurolaw hype stems from conceptual confusion. They want to throw some philosophical cold water on the proponents of this hype.



#30: Transhumanism: The Robot Human: A Self-Generating Ecosystem

by Tery Spataro

I will attempt to take the fear out of the future, by giving Transhumanism a digestible definition, while at the same time offering a cautionary note. As an educator, technologist and ethicist, I feel I have a social obligation to provide a rationale for understanding Transhumanism for those people who have questions about our natural evolution and for younger generations who are embracing technology but want to know there is a brighter future.



When Mass Suicide Might be Morally Right

by Phil Torres

There are several reasons why creating a superintelligent mind could bring about an existential catastrophe. For example, the AI could be malicious, or unfriendly, a scenario that I call the amity-enmity problem. It looms large in Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence, in which Bostrom suggests that we should recognize "doom" as the "default outcome" of creating a superintelligence. And AI could also be apathetic about our well-being and continued survival. Perhaps it wants to convert the entire surface of earth into solar panels (an example that Bostrom mentions), and as a result it annihilates the biosphere. Let’s call this the indifference problem.



Is AI a Myth?

by Rick Searle

A few weeks back the technologist Jaron Lanier gave a provocative talk over at The Edge in which he declared ideas swirling around the current manifestation AI to be a “myth”, and a dangerous myth at that. Yet Lanier was only one of a set of prominent thinkers and technologists who have appeared over the last few months to challenge want they saw as a flawed narrative surrounding recent advances in artificial intelligence.



The Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Theory

by John Danaher

Regular readers will know that I have recently been working my through Erik Wielenberg’s fascinating new book Robust Ethics. In the book, Wielenberg defends a robust non-natural, non-theistic, moral realism. According to this view, moral facts exist as part of the basic metaphysical furniture of the universe. They are sui generis, not grounded in or constituted by other types of fact.



How America’s Obsession With Bad Birth Control Hurts and Even Kills Women

by Valerie Tarico

Many women know more about the risks of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their lives. For busy women, making good health decisions and actually taking care of ourselves can be a challenge, especially when practical factors such as complicated schedules, finances, and competing demands are taken into consideration. Well-balanced, well-presented information can empower women to make smart decisions about reproductive health care. Unfortunately, thanks in part to how the American legal system works, many women know more about the risks and side effects of birth control than about how the right contraceptive might improve their health and well-being.



Does Religion Cause More Harm than Good? Brits Say Yes. Here’s Why They May be Right.

by Valerie Tarico

Most British people think religion causes more harm than good according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious” 20 percent say that religion is harmful to society. For that we can probably thank the internet, which broadcasts everything from Isis beheadings, to stories about Catholic hospitals denying care to miscarrying women, to lists of wild and weird religious beliefs, to articles about psychological harms from Bible-believing Christianity.



Is there a defensible atheistic account of moral values?

by John Danaher

There two basic types of ethical fact: (i) values, i.e. facts about what is good, bad, or neutral; and (ii) duties, i.e. facts about what is permissible, obligatory and forbidden. In this post I want to consider whether or not there is a defensible non-theistic account of values. In other words, is it possible for values to exist in the godless universe?



Death Should Be Optional

by John G. Messerly

There are serious thinkers—Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Michio Kaku, Marshall Brain, Aubrey de Grey and others—who foresee that technology may enable humans to defeat death. There are also dissenters who argue that this is exceedingly unlikely. And there are those like Bill Joy who think that such technologies are technologically feasible but morally reprehensible.



Why Transhumanists Should Support “Right-To-Die”

by B. J. Murphy

On November 1, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard took medication to end her life. This wasn’t an act of cowardice, nor due to some psychological condition. She ended her life because she wanted to die on her own terms, rather than suffer the eventually-fatal torment of terminal brain cancer. Her ability to legally commit suicide – or what she referred to it as “death with dignity” – was due to the state of Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act.”



The Philosophy of Intelligence Explosions and Advanced Robotics (Series Index)

by John Danaher

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are going to play an increasingly important role in human society. Over the past two years, I’ve written several posts about this topic. The majority of them focus on machine ethics and the potential risks of an intelligence explosion; others look at how we might interact with and have duties toward robots.



Futurism: Go Big

by Jønathan Lyons

Elon Musk wants 1,000,000 human colonists on Mars as a precaution against the extinction of our species. Ray Kurzweil has plotted a timeline for the coming technological Singularity. Michio Kaku has a strategy to avoid AIs overthrowing us: We augment and become them.



Procedural Due Process and the Dangers of Predictive Analytics

by John Danaher

I am really looking forward to Frank Pasquale’s new book The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information. The book looks to examine and critique the ways in which big data is being used to analyse, predict and control our behaviour. Unfortunately, it is not out until January 2015. In the meantime, I’m trying to distract myself with some of Pasquale’s previously published material.



Transhumanism: The Robot Human: A Self-Generating Ecosystem

by Tery Spataro

I will attempt to take the fear out of the future, by giving Transhumanism a digestible definition, while at the same time offering a cautionary note. As an educator, technologist and ethicist, I feel I have a social obligation to provide a rationale for understanding Transhumanism for those people who have questions about our natural evolution and for younger generations who are embracing technology but want to know there is a brighter future.



The Transhumanist Future of Sex (Crimes?)

by B. J. Murphy

On August 31 of this year, nearly 200 celebrities had their private images hacked and released for the entire world to see. These images ranged from the normal day-to-day activities, to their utmost private moments – from nudity to sex. This event hit both mainstream and social media airwaves, flooding the online sphere under the hashtags #Celebgate and the #Fappening.



Birth Control? There’s an App for That

by Valerie Tarico

Given that 82 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended, it should come as no surprise that sexual health advocates are eager to make information and services even easier to access and more appealing to emerging adults. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, which serves Western Washington, Alaska, and Southern Idaho, recently rolled out a telemedicine pilot project that may help to do just that.



iSchools: Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies

by Melanie Swan

The perfect merger of academic rigor and contemporary thinking has come together in the concept of iSchools, which give practical consideration and interesting learning opportunities to the most relevant issue of our time: information.



Transhumanism and Moral Enhancement

by Alex Nichols

With futurist thinkers supporting the notion of human upgrading through technological enhancement, what parameters are considered in respect to moral enhancement? What cross cultural barriers and variations in moral reasoning are we targeting for such upgrades? Moreover, is moral enhancement simply a term we fear delving into despite the association it arguably has to almost everything our culture produces?

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