Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
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UPCOMING EVENTS: FreeThought



MULTIMEDIA: FreeThought Topics

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?

Brain to brain communication edges closer (including downloading information from the internet!)

A message about the power of free expression

Biohacking - the forefront of a new kind of human evolution

Singularity 1 on 1: Science is an epistemology in the house of philosophy

Achieving Personal Immortality Roadmap

Nietzsche, the Overhuman, and Transhumanism

American Society for Engineering Education: Why Diversity is so Important

The Singularity Is Near Movie Trailer

Primitivism, Progress, the Transhuman & the Technological Avalanche




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FreeThought Topics




Feminism and the Basic Income (Part Two)

by John Danaher

This is the second part of my series on feminism and the basic income. In part one, I looked at the possible effects of an unconditional basic income (UBI) on women. I also looked at a variety of feminist arguments for and against the UBI. The arguments focused on the impact of the UBI on economic independence, freedom of choice, the value of unpaid work, and women’s labour market participation.



Why We Should Be Careful About Adopting Social Robots

by Evan Selinger

Although Jibo, designed by MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal to be the “world’s first family robot,” isn’t set to ship until 2015, folks are already excited about this little bot with a “big personality.” While there’s much to be said for Breazeal’s vision of “humanizing technology” so that the smart home of the future doesn’t “feel cold and computerized,” we might want to pause a bit before rushing to build the type of world depicted in the movieHer. Although it is easy to imagine we’ll be better off when we’ve got less to do, we don’t actually know the existential and social implications ofoutsourcing ever-more intimate tasks to technology.



Feminism and the Basic Income (Part One)

by John Danaher

The introduction of an unconditional basic income (UBI) is often touted as a positive step in terms of freedom, well-being and social justice. That’s certainly the view of people like Philippe Van Parijs and Karl Widerquist, both of whose arguments for the UBI I covered in my two most recent posts. But could there be other less progressive effects arising from its introduction?



Why the Castles of Silicon Valley are Built out of Sand

by Rick Searle

If you get just old enough, one of the lessons living through history throws you is that dreams take a long time to die. Depending on how you date it, communism took anywhere from 74 to 143 years to pass into the dustbin of history, though some might say it is still kicking. The Ptolemaic model of the universe lasted from 100 AD into the 1600′s. Perhaps even more dreams than not simply refuse to die, they hang on like ghost, or ghouls, zombies or vampires, or whatever freakish version of the undead suits your fancy. Naming them would take up more room than I can post, and would no doubt start one too many arguments, all of our lists being different. Here, I just want to make an argument for the inclusion of one dream on our list of zombies knowing full well the dream I’ll declare dead will have its defenders.



Radcliffe-Richards on Sexual Inequality and Justice (Part Two)

by John Danaher

Should we worry that only X% of CEOs, or politicians or philosophers (or whatever) are women? Is there something unjust or morally defective about a society with low percentages of women occupying these kinds of roles? That’s what we’re looking at in this series of posts, based on Janet Radcliffe-Richard’s (RR’s) paper “Only X%: the Problem of Sex Inequality”.



Geoengineering as a Human Right

by Kris Notaro

Geoengineering has come under attack recently by conspiracy theorists, scientists, to “greens.” There have been many kinds of proposals for geoengineering, and even a legal/illegal experiment pouring 200,000 pounds of iron sulfate into the North Pacific which was supposed to increase plankton that would absorb carbon dioxide. The experiment did not work and pissed off a lot of scientists. China also recently stopped their “flattening of mountains.” Therefore this article is not purely about techniques of combating global warming, but about the need for people to understand that geoengineering is a must, not only a must, but also a “human right.”



Radcliffe-Richards on Sexual Inequality and Justice (Part One)

by John Danaher

Let’s start with a thought experiment. Suppose that in a given population 50% of people have blue eyes and 50% have brown eyes. Suppose further that there is no evidence to suggest that eye colour has any effect on cognitive ability; indeed, suppose that everything we know suggests that cognitive ability is equally distributed among blue and brown-eyed people. Now imagine that in this population 80% of all senior academics and professors are blue-eyed. What conclusions should we draw about the justice of this society?



How Should Humanity Steer the Future?

by Rick Searle

Over the spring the Fundamental Questions Institute (FQXi) sponsored an essay contest the topic of which should be dear to this audience’s heart- How Should Humanity Steer the Future? I thought I’d share some of the essays I found most interesting, but there are lots, lots, more to check out if you’re into thinking about the future or physics, which I am guessing you might be.



5 Signs the U.S. Is Failing to Protect Women’s Rights in the Workplace

by Richard Eskow

The Prime Minister of Morocco recently compared women to “lanterns” or “chandeliers,” saying that “when women went to work outside, the light went out of their homes.” His remarks, which ran counter to Morocco’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights for women, promptly provoked both street demonstrations and an “I’m not a chandelier” Twitter hashtag.



The Individual and the Collective, Part Two

by Valkyrie Ice McGill

Last post we observed the dynamics of the collective in the terms of a small tribe, and indicated that at this size, things worked pretty well. That is not to say that error modes were not possible, but that when error modes arose, there were mechanisms in place to deal with those errors. Essentially, at this scale, the ability of individuals to veil their actions in a wall of secrecy did not exist. While it is certainly possible for the individual to lie, cheat, steal and deceive, such actions could only be carried out to a limited extent, and carried repercussions that were deleterious to that individuals long term well being.



Unions 2.0? Trumka on Austerity, Elizabeth Warren, and Progressives

by Richard Eskow

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka characterizes his vision of a progressive and populist-oriented labor coalition, not as a modern innovation, but as a return to labor’s roots. In an in-depth interview for The Zero Hour, Trumka covered a range of topics that included the postwar heyday of the middle class, the union movement’s relationship to the left, the logic behind fighting for non-unionized workers, and the possible presidential candidacy of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.



Is It Time to Give Up on the Singularity?

by George Dvorsky

Some futurists and science fiction writers predict that we’re on the cusp of a world-changing “Technological Singularity.” Skeptics say there will be no such thing. Today, I’ll be debating author Ramez Naam about which side is right.



The Informational Sublime

by Andrew Iliadis

In a rarely cited polemic from 1986 titled The Cult of Information, the historian Theodore Roszak recalls Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes. Early in the text, Roszak offers a riposte to what he perceives as the growing idolization of information: “Information has taken on the quality of the impalpable, invisible, but plaudit-winning silk from which the emperor's ethereal gown was supposedly spun.” The book is an historical overview that analyzes information as a commodity.



10 Futurist Phrases And Terms That Are Complete Bullshit

by George Dvorsky

Last month io9 told you about 20 terms every self-respecting futurist should know, but now it's time to turn our attention to the opposite.  Here are 10 pseudofuturist catchphrases and concepts that need to be eliminated from your vocabulary.



Changing the Abortion Conversation – An Aikido Strategy

by Valerie Tarico

Picture this: A group of abortion opponents stand outside a women’s clinic holding pictures of fetal remains. As they stand there, calling and offering pamphlets to people entering the clinic, a trickle of pro-choice activists also arrive…



The Ethics of Suicide: A Framework

by John Danaher

In 1774, Goethe published the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. The novel consists of a series of letters from a young, sensitive artist by the name of Werther. Over the course of these letters, we learn that Werther has become involved in a tragic love triangle. He believes that in order to resolve the love triangle, some member of it will have to die. Not being inclined to commit murder, Werther resolves to kill himself. This he duly does by shooting himself in the head.



Google Is Not Your Enemy. (But it’s not your friend either)

by Valkyrie Ice McGill

I am sure you have heard it constantly. "Google is (insert fear term here.)" They want to take over the internet, they are building skynet, they are invading our privacy, they are trying to become big brother, etc, etc, ad nausem.  Be it Glass, or their recent acquisition of numerous robotics firms, to even hiring Ray Kurzweil, Google has recently been in the news a lot, usually as the big bad boogieman of whatever news story you are reading.



Punching nerds in the face is never a good thing

by Doug Rushkoff

At the White House Correspondents Dinner - the annual opportunity for the President to engage directly, and humorously, with reporters who cover him - I expect most of the gibes to be at the President. Sure, he gets the chance to defend himself, but it’s pretty much a roast: a leading comedian is invited every year to make jokes, while the Commander in Chief tries to laugh instead of squirm.



Honestly, War Is Over

by David Swanson

When we start talking about ending war, one common reaction—not as common as “You’re a lunatic,” but fairly common—is to propose that if we want to get rid of war we’ll have to get rid of something else first, or sometimes it’s a series of something elses.



Prof. Hawking, the AIs will BE US

by Giulio Prisco

Perhaps, as Prof. Stephen Hawking thinks, it may be difficult to “control” Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the long term. But perhaps we shouldn’t “control” the long-term development of AI, because that would be like preventing a child from becoming an adult, and that child is you.



Is Transhumanism Compatible with Anarchism?

by John Danaher

Transhumanists want to liberate themselves from the limitations of the human body. Anarchists want to liberate themselves from the limitations of contemporary human social structures. You might think that these two goals are compatible: that the liberatory ethos of transhumanism could complement that of anarchism.



A dirty little secret: books are free (and so should be readers and writers)

by Giulio Prisco

I don’t know anyone who still buys music discs. The age of music downloads started about 15 years ago (remember Napster?), but today it’s much easier: if I want to hear a song, I just find it on Youtube. Film: if a film hasn’t been totally ignored, chances are that it can be found on the torrent sites. And now books: today’s dirty little secret is that most books are free to download.



The Ethics of Virtual Rape

by John Danaher

The notorious 1982 video game Custer’s Revenge requires the player to direct their crudely pixellated character (General Custer) to avoid attacks so that he can rape a Native American woman who is tied to a stake. The game, unsurprisingly, generated a great deal of controversy and criticism at the time of its release. Since then, video games with similarly problematic content, but far more realistic imagery, have been released. For example, in 2006 the Japanese company Illusion released the game RapeLay, in which the player stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters.



The Social Futurist policy toolkit

by Amon Twyman

In a recent blog post and IEET article, I laid out an extremely general critique of Capitalism’s place within our society, and the barest outline of an alternative known as Social Futurism. The essence of that article was that Capitalism does certain things very well but it cannot be paused or adjusted when its effects become problematic, that rapid technological change appears to be on the verge of making certain alternatives viable, and that unfortunately we may be forced to fight for our right to personally choose those alternatives.



The Problem with the Trolley Problem, or why I avoid utilitarians near subways

by Rick Searle

Human beings are weird. At least, that is, when comparing ourselves to our animal cousins. We’re weird in terms of our use of language, our creation and use of symbolic art and mathematics, our extensive use of tools. We’re also weird in terms of our morality, and engage in strange behaviors visa-via one another that are almost impossible to find throughout the rest of the animal world.



Back to the future in the Metaverse

by Giulio Prisco

All seems to indicate that new, fully immersive next-generation virtual worlds and user interfaces may be behind the corner. Let’s go back to the future in the Metaverse!



Does radical enhancement threaten our sense of self?

by John Danaher

If we extended our lives by 200 years, or if we succeeded in uploading our minds to an artificial substrate, would we undermine our sense of personal identity? If so, would it be wiser to avoid such radical forms of enhancement? These are the questions posed in chapter 4 of Nicholas Agar’s book Truly Human Enhancement. Over the next two posts I’ll take a look at Agar’s answers. This is all part of my ongoing series of reflections on Agar’s book.



Will sex workers be replaced by robots? (A Precis)

by John Danaher

I recently published an article in the Journal of Evolution and Technology on the topic of sex work and technological unemployment (available here, here and here). It began by asking whether sex work, specifically prostitution (as opposed to other forms of labour that could be classified as “sex work”, e.g. pornstar or erotic dancer), was vulnerable to technological unemployment. It looked at contrasting responses to that question, and also included some reflections on technological unemployment and the basic income guarantee.



Social Futurist revolution & the Zero State

by Amon Twyman

We have recently seen increased interest in the issues of workplace automation,technological unemployment, and Basic Income Guarantee (AKA Universal Basic Income). Some observers have been perplexed by visceral and sharply divided public opinion, with people viewing these phenomena as inherently positive or negative.



Should we bet on radical enhancement?

by John Danaher

This is the third part of my series on Nicholas Agar’s book Truly Human Enhancement. As mentioned previously, Agar stakes out an interesting middle ground on the topic of enhancement. He argues that modest forms of enhancement — i.e. up to or slightly beyond the current range of human norms — are prudentially wise, whereas radical forms of enhancement — i.e. well beyond the current range of human norms — are not. His main support for this is his belief that in radically enhancing ourselves we will lose certain internal goods. These are goods that are intrinsic to some of our current activities.

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