Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: FreeThought

Transhumanism and the Church
September 24-26
Samford University, Birmingham, AL 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




#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?



Algocracy and other Problems with Big Data (Series Index)

by John Danaher

What kind of society are we creating? With the advent of the internet-of-things, advanced data-mining and predictive analytics, and improvements in artificial intelligence and automation, we are the verge of creating a global “neural network”: a constantly-updated, massively interconnected, control system for the world. Imagine what it will be like when every “thing” in your home, place of work, school, city, state and country is connected to a smart device?



Study Shows Big Government Makes People Happy, ‘Free Markets’ Don’t

by Richard Eskow

Forget about feeling "like a room without a roof," or whatever that "Happy" song says. If you want to know "what happiness is to you," try living in a social democracy.



Transhumanism and Celebrating the Unnatural

by Khannea Suntzu

In the year 2014 A.D, the human species may have expanded completely out of bounds. To transcend boundaries is within and out of nature. That is what we do. It is ordained. It is written. We appear to have transcended many limits imposed upon us by nature. Nature imposes, not out of will, because because of the statistical qualities of what nature is. Humans transcend. Nature constrains. There is no free will involved. There is no intelligence or intelligent designer involved. There is no pre-ordained outcome. So we immediately see the arbitrariness of what is natural and what is unnatural. This makes it so strange why we as humans (especially in the western world) still venerate the “natural” and conversely we abhor what’s labeled “unnatural”.



Pediatricians Give Thumbs Up to Game Changing Birth Control for Sexually Active Teens

by Valerie Tarico

Every year more than 750,000 American teens become pregnant, and over 80 percent of these pregnancies are unplanned. That may be about to change. If teens take to the latest wave of birth control technologies the way they’ve taken to cell phones, unplanned pregnancy could go the way of landlines and stretchy handset cords.



Transhumanism and the Will to Power

by Miriam Jisun

A critical note on transhumanist organizational structure. I am always a bit amused upon hearing other people’s concerns about transhumanism and even transhumanists themselves (depicted as influential, intimidating and even dangerous). Although many transhumanist ideas may sound disruptive and revolutionary to the average citizen, transhumanists themselves are far less the doers, but rather passive observers and theorists.



Google’s Cold Betrayal of the Internet

by Harry J. Bentham

Google Inc.’s 2013 book The New Digital Age, authored by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, was showered with praise by many, but attacked in a review by Julian Assange for the New York Times, where it is described as a “love song” from Google to the US state. Also addressed in Assange’s subsequent book When Google Met WikiLeaks, Google’s book makes an unconvincing effort to depict the internet as a double-edged sword, both empowering (p. 6) and threatening our lives (p. 7).



Dementia Care? No Thanks!

by Valerie Tarico

In a powerful article at the Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel lined up facts and figures showing that much of the recent gain in human lifespan is  about stretching out the process of decline and death rather than living well for longer. Most of us would love to live to 100 and beyond with our minds sharp and our senses clear, able to take pleasure in the world around us while contributing at least modestly to the happiness and wellbeing of others.  But clear-eyed analysis shows that is not how most elderly Americans experience their final years.  



Why Right Wing Christians Think They are America’s Most Persecuted

by Valerie Tarico

A recent Pew study found that white American Evangelical Christians think they experience more discrimination than Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Atheists or Jews. Really?!



Transhumanism and Politics

by Amon Twyman

I am a transhumanist, and I believe that politics is important. Let me unpack that a little: I believe that we can and should voluntarily improve the human condition using technology. That makes me a transhumanist, but aside from that single axiom I have in common with all transhumanists, we’re an increasingly diverse bunch.



Sousveillance and Surveillance: What kind of future do we want?

by John Danaher

Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon is the classic symbol of authoritarianism. Bentham, a revolutionary philosopher and social theorist, adapted the idea from his brother Samuel. The panopticon was a design for a prison. It would be a single watchtower, surrounded by a circumference of cells. From the watchtower a guard could surveil every prisoner, whilst at the same time being concealed from their view. The guard could be on duty or not.



Has the Christian Doctrine of Hell Become an Awkward Liability?

by Valerie Tarico

Three years ago, my sister, who had long struggled with mental illness, hit her limit and jumped off a freeway bridge. She lived. She was rushed to the county trauma center, and by the time I arrived from Seattle she was hooked up to an array of life support technologies and monitors.



Liberal Democracy, The Third Way, & Social Futurism (pt. 3 of 3)

by Amon Twyman

The first two articles in this series criticised the dominant political paradigm of the Western world (Liberal Democracy) and briefly outlined the beginnings of an alternative called Social Futurism (SF). The aim of this final article is to begin exploring relationships between the core SF idea and a few relevant concepts.



Should we abolish work?

by John Danaher

I seem to work a lot. At least, I think I work a lot. Like many in the modern world, I find it pretty hard to tell the difference between work and the rest of my life. Apart from when I’m sleeping, I’m usually reading, writing or thinking (or doing some combination of the three). And since that is essentially what I get paid to do, it is difficult to distinguish between work and leisure. Of course, reading, writing and thinking are features of many jobs. The difference is that, as an academic, I have the luxury of deciding what I should be reading, writing and thinking about.

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