Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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


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

Longévité, condition féminine et travail reproductif

by Audrey Arendt

L ’allongement net de la durée de la jeunesse biologique soulève à tort les questions de surpopulation et de croissance démographique, lorsqu’au contraire tout porte à anticiper les effets inverses.

Humai’s Head of Engineering On the Future That is to Come

by B. J. Murphy

Just the other week Humai’s head of engineering John LaRocco sat down with The Hartman Media Company where he discussed artificial intelligence (A.I.), head transplants, and synthetic organs. It was an alluring conversation to listen to, one which will help people acquire a better understanding as to the company Humai’s vision for the future ahead of us.

The Challenge of Secularism and Human Rights in Africa

by Leo Igwe

African countries have been facing various challenges since independence and one of these major dilemmas is defining the relationship between religion and politics. At independence, African countries inherited multiple faiths, political religions that seek to control state formation and structure.

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What is the Difference Between Philosophy, Science, and Religion?

by John G. Messerly

In order to more clearly conceptualize philosophy’s territory, let’s consider it in relationship to two other powerful cultural forces with which it’s intertwined: religion and science.

We may (roughly) characterize the contrast between philosophy and religion as follows: philosophy relies on reason, evidence and experience for its truths; religion depends on faith, authority grace, and revelation for truth.

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Review of Michael Bess’, Our Grandchildren Redesigned

by John G. Messerly

Vanderbilt University’s Michael Bess has written an extraordinarily thoughtful new book: Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life In The BioEngineered Society Of The Near Future. The first part of the book introduces the reader to the technologies that will enhance the physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities of our children and grandchildren: pharmaceuticals, bioelectronics, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and virtual reality.

“Humanist Missionaries” aim to secularize Africa via Children’s Education

by Hank Pellissier

Africa is the world’s most religious continent.

Brighter Brains Institute (BBI) - a San Francisco Bay Area think-and-do-tank - seeks to counter that, by establishing and supporting secular “humanist” schools in the region.

What is BBI’s motivation?

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Can Teaching Evolution Help Kids Flourish In School And In Life?

by Dustin Eirdosh

Positive Education (PE) is the integrative field of study that tightly links human well-being with academic achievement. Common sense tells us that healthy, happy students will, on average, be more successful academically. Positive education tries to implement a nurturing environment for students, but also suggests we teach the science of human flourishing as content itself.

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New Technologies as Social Experiments: An Ethical Framework

by John Danaher

What was Apple thinking when it launched the iPhone? It was an impressive bit of technology, poised to revolutionise the smartphone industry, and set to become nearly ubiquitous within a decade. The social consequences have been dramatic. Many of those consequences have been positive: increased connectivity, increased knowledge and increased day-to-day convenience.

La guerre invisible

by EMG

Je tenterai, dans cet article, de poser quelques réflexions sur le sujet de l’Emulation de Cerveau Entier (ECE), qui me semble trop rapidement traité dans l’espace francophone, alors que c’est précisément un sujet qui évolue très vite et qui permet de toucher à beaucoup de domaines de connaissances de l’humain. Fasciné par les perspectives qu’il ouvre, je suis depuis plusieurs années les aventures des (trop) rares scientifiques qui le prennent au sérieux. Dans une deuxième partie, je comparerai le chantier de l’ECE avec d’autres grands projets humains récents ou moins récents.

Mosquito vs Monsignor: For Catholics, Zika Pits Tradition of Authority vs. Tradition of Conscience

by Valerie Tarico

Even without the Pope’s recent allowance for birth control “in certain cases,” Catholic tradition has long taught that each person must look to his or her own conscience as the final moral guide. A brain damaged baby or an eternity in Hell—which would you rather risk? Some sincere Catholics believe that Latin America’s Zika pandemic forces practicing Catholics to choose between the wellbeing of their future children and the wellbeing of their souls.

Summary of Michio Kaku’s, Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century

by John G. Messerly

Michio Kaku (1947 – ) is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York of City University of New York. He is the co-founder of string field theory and a popularizer of science. He earned his PhD in physics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1972.

Summary of Charles T. Rubin’s, “Artificial Intelligence and Human Nature,”

by John G. Messerly

Charles T. Rubin is a professor of political science at Duquesne University. His 2003 article, “Artificial Intelligence and Human Nature,” is a systematic attack on the thinking of Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec, thinkers we have discussed in recent posts.(1)

Justice-Related Objections to Effective Altruism

by John Danaher

This post is the first substantive entry in my series about effective altruism. In a previous post, I offered a general introduction to the topic of effective altruism (EA) and sketched out a taxonomy of the main objections to the practice. In that post, I adopted a ‘thick’ definition of EA, which holds that one ought to do the most good one can do, assuming a welfarist and consequentialist approach to ethics, and favouring evidentially robust policy interventions.

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How Science Can Make Us Immortal

by John G. Messerly

If death is inevitable, then all we can do is die and hope for the best. But perhaps we don’t have to die. Many respectable scientists now believe that humans can overcome death and achieve immortality through the use of future technologies. But how will we do this?

Fun sans fin

by EMG

A la fin du dix-huitième siècle, des bricoleurs ont fabriqué les premières boites à musique : de subtils petits mécanismes capables de jouer des harmonies et mélodies tout seuls. Quelques uns comptaient des cloches, percussions, orgues, et même des violons, tout cela coordonné par un cylindre rotatif. Les exemples les plus ambitieux étaient de véritables orchestres lilliputiens, comme le Panharmonicon, inventé à Vienne en 1805, ou l’Orchestrion, produit en série à Dresde en 1851.

Apple Search Finally Stops Directing People Seeking Abortions to Adoption Centers

by Valerie Tarico

Ask Siri where to get an abortion and get a list of adoption agencies–for five years that was the experience of Apple users in cities ranging from San Francisco to Philadelphia. Recent technical upgrades appear to have resolved the problem, but advocates seeking to end abortion stigma say they intend to keep an eye on Siri and her competitors.

Epictetus: What Can We Control?

by John G. Messerly

Epictetus (c. 55 – 135 CE) was born as a slave in the Roman Empire, but obtained his freedom as a teenager. He studied Stoic philosophy from an early age, eventually lecturing on Stoicism in Rome. He was forced to leave the city in 89 CE, after the Emperor Domitian banished philosophers from Italy. He then established his own school at Nicopolis on the Adriatic coast in Greece, where he taught and lectured until he died around 135. Today he is regarded as one of the preeminent Stoic philosophers.

Basic Income is certain, but ‘they’ will wait as long as they can to implement it.

by Khannea Suntzu

Looking at the barrage of news on technological unemployment, we may get lucky and avoid the predictable denialism phase altogether. A lot of time gets wasted on denying things that are inescapable. We may get lucky, as in “we might avoid a massively disfunctional dystopian future full of mass-poverty and the consequences thereof“.

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New Evidence Suggests Human Beings Are a Geological Force of Nature

by George Dvorsky

For years, the term “Anthropocene” has been used to informally describe the human era on Earth. But new evidence suggests there’s nothing informal about it. We’re a true force of nature — and there’s good reason to believe we’ve sparked a new and unprecedented geological epoch.

Transhumanismus: Der neue Politiktrend?

by Roland Benedikter

Das humanistische Menschenbild prägte die Entwicklung westlicher Gesellschaften. Doch inzwischen ist der Transhumanismus auf dem Vormarsch. Vertreter dieser neuen ideologischen Strömung beraten westliche Regierungen, Firmen und Entscheidungsträger. Sie streben eine Cyborgisierung des Menschen an. Doch was sind die politischen Folgen?

Religion and Violence Revisted

by Rick Searle

A few weeks back I did a post on religion and violence the gist of which was that it’s far too simplistic to connect religiosity to violence without paying much closer attention to the social context. Religious violence should been seen, I argued, as the response to some real or perceived mistreatment. In addition I also suggested that perhaps what appears to make believers in monotheistic faiths particularly prone to violence is their insistence that they alone possess religious truth.

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Seneca On the Proper Use of Time

by John G. Messerly

Yesterday I wrote about the impending death of the great neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. I was particularly struck by this line from Sachs’ public goodbye: “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential.” This brought to mind the Stoic philosopher Seneca who touched on a similar theme in his short piece, On the Shortness of Life:

Danaher Publishes The Threat of Algocracy: Reality, Resistance and Accommodation

IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher has a new paper in the journal Philosophy and Technology.

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Link to Philosophy and Technology

Marcus Aurelius: A Brief Summary of The Meditations

by John G. Messerly

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. ~ Marcus Aurelius

The Philosophy of Games and the Postwork Utopia

by John Danaher

I want to start with a thought experiment: Suppose the most extreme predictions regarding technological unemployment come to pass. The new wave of automating technologies take over most forms of human employment. The result is that there is no economically productive domain for human workers to escape into. Suppose, at the same time, that we all benefit from this state of affairs. In other words, the productive gains of the technology do not flow solely to a handful of super-wealthy capitalists; they are fairly distributed to all (perhaps through an guaranteed income scheme). Call this the ‘postwork’ world. What would life be like in such a world?

Principe de réalité?

by Marc Roux

Comment le fait de rester les pieds sur terre n’empêche pas de rechercher un futur techno-progressiste.

Getting Human-Like Values into Advanced OpenCog AGIs

by Ben Goertzel

In a recent blog post, I have proposed two general theses regarding the future value systems of human-level and transhuman AGI systems: the Value Learning Thesis (VLT) and Value Evolution Thesis (VET).  This post pursues the same train of thought further – attempting to make these ideas more concrete via speculating about how the VLT and VET might manifest themselves in the context of an advanced version of the OpenCog AGI platform.

Religion and Violence

by Rick Searle

Sometimes, I get the uneasy feeling that the New Atheists might be right after all. Perhaps there is something latently violent in the religious imagination, some feature, or tendency, encouraged by religion that the world would better be without.

Paranoia, Conspiracies and Surveillance

by David Brin

== Another summons to resigned despair ==

Conspiracy theories abound.  They erupt out of human nature, it seems, and your ethnicity or caste or political leanings only affect which direction you credit with devilish cleverness, secret power and satanic values. For sure, as a science fiction author I can concoct plausible schemes and plots with the best of them!  Indeed, let me add that some real life cabals are so blatant and proudly obvious that you just have to admit – sometimes “they” are completely real and up to awful mischief.

#11: The End of Religion: Technology and the Future

by John G. Messerly

According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2015? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 30 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 1,000), based on how many total hits each one received.

The following piece was first published here on January 24, 2015, and is the #11 most viewed of the year.

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